Throughout the past month, reports have surfaced the Celtics star point guard Kyrie Irving is considering moving on from the team in the summer of 2019 when can opt-out of the final year of his contract. Coming off a knee injury that held Irving out of a deep Playoff run, many expected Irving to sign long-term with the Celtics, but will it happen?
It was only a year ago when Irving inexplicably, a keyword to describe Irving’s actions, requested a trade to leave Cleveland and LeBron James after making three consecutive NBA Finals. It was reported that Irving wanted to leave Cleveland to “be the man” of his own team and to realize his full potential as “an evolving 25-year-old man” as he likes to put it. Injury notwithstanding, Irving had a tremendously successful first year in Boston even in the wake of co-star Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle fracture and dislocation. The Celtics were one of the hottest teams in the league with Irving, alongside All-Star Al Horford, leading a group of young players. Furthermore, there have been many people attesting to Irving’s joy playing in Boston. Early in the season, FS1’s Chris Broussard said that Irving was “happy as a clam in Boston”; additionally, Uncle Drew co-star Nick Kroll, skip to 1:30 mark, said that Kyrie was jumping for joy when he got the news of his trade request being obliged. In fact, encouraging news came as soon as the deal was consummated when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that Boston made the trade with the belief that Irving would be part of Boston’s plans long term. After what had looked to a promising start to a long and fruitful relationship between the player and organization, a few reports have surfaced that Irving may, in fact, leave behind a great situation in Boston. In fact, Irving was visibly irritated when being pressed about his future in Boston during a press conference.
Yahoo’s Chris Mannix was the first to report that the Celtics fear Kyrie would walk in free agency and potentially join the Knicks. After Kyrie refused to refute the idea that he could leave, more fuel was added to the fire and many outlets put Irving’s name in hypothetical trades for disgruntled Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. A lot of these reports came as a surprise to many Celtics fans who took it with a grain of salt, but the more time that goes by, the more real these rumors feel. On July 5th, Colin Cowherd said on his show that ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that Kyrie is interested in joining the Knicks. I scoured Twitter looking for the report from Haynes himself to no avail, but if it is true then Celtics fans should be worried. Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Irving and Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler want to team up in the depleted Eastern Conference. In most cases, a superstar like Irving leaving a situation like the one with the Celtics would be viewed as preposterous. There is a laundry list of reasons why Irving should stay with the Green: the Celtics are poised to dominate the Eastern Conference for the next five to ten years with LeBron James defecting for the bright lights of Los Angeles and he is the primary star of the team but still has All-Stars and young talent around him, and he is still in one of the premier markets in sports. Not to mention, for a player who has sustained multiple season-ending knee injuries, Boston can offer him the most money with a projected five year, $188 million max contract. So with all these factors, why would Kyrie Irving even think about leaving the Celtics? To be honest there is only one possible answer to that: Kyrie is simply an odd duck.
Irving is not only a transcendent talent on the basketball court, but he is also a transcendent thinker, at least he seems to think he is. Whenever Irving speaks, he seems like he is trying too hard to appear as some evolved intellectual. This is not to say Irving is not smart, he appears to be a very bright man; however, from his flat-Earth comments to his pedantic word choice, Irving wants to prove to everyone that he is different. The one article that I always go back to is a piece by the great Jackie MacMullan where she talks about Irving’s life and how he walks to the beat of his own drum even dating back to his high school years. One line that stood out then and is especially telling now is when MacMullan wrote:
“His decision to switch high schools was the first time in his life that he revealed an insatiable thirst for new challenges, no matter how daunting — or inexplicable.”
As mentioned Irving, many of his decisions have been inexplicable, and this is what Boston may be dealing with right now. No matter how much sense it makes to stay, no matter how much money he could make or how much he can win, Irving may be tempted to leave to start a new challenge. It has also been widely reported that Irving was very upset that his name was discussed in a deal for Paul George, perhaps he is angry that people are saying he could be dealt for Leonard. It could also be that Irving feels that since Boston was five minutes away from a Finals berth without him, that he is no longer viewed as the main star and salvation of the franchise. Maybe Boston still isn’t a big enough market for Irving who has already starred in a feature-length movie. One thing we know for sure is that you never know what is going through Irving’s mind and that should scare Celtics fans greatly.
Photo: Slam Magazine