Kyrie Irving came to the Boston Celtics to get away from LeBron James’ suffocating and game stifling presence and be the face of the franchise. He was supposed to team up with Gordon Hayward to form the Eastern Conference most potent backcourt.
Both All-Stars got hurt and it never materialized, but a band of young guns capitalized on the injuries showcased their exceptional talents and lost in a gut-wrenching, Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs.
With Irving and Hayward expected to be ready to rock in October and the emergence of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, plus the ability and resources Danny Ainge has to work with, the Celtics are already being picked by some NBA “experts” to win the title next season.
But that talent logjam that everyone says is a good thing, maybe just the circumstance needed for the Knicks to swoop in, grab Kyrie and secure another franchise talent, which would change the fortunes of the franchise.
New York to free cap space for 2019, possibly to attract Kyrie Irving #Knicks https://t.co/9t5HYww1oh
Kyrie is an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and the way things have transpired with the injury and in these 2018 playoffs, reports have surfaced citing Danny Ainge's fearlessness when it comes to offloading a big name to help save the franchise and move it forward. That big name could be Irving, who refused to commit to the Celtics at the weekend in an interview with New York Times reporter Sopan Deb.
"Well, I mean I know that question is going to come up a lot over the next year, just based upon where my deal is," Irving said.
"And, you know, that time will arise and when it does, I think I'll have a better, clear, concise answer for a lot of people that are going to ask.”
“Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports said on his podcast the Celtics are “scared” Irving could leave next summer, and the Knicks are viewed as a potential destination. The 26-year-old Irving, who missed the playoffs following left knee surgery, can opt out of his contract next summer. The Celtics would be able to sign him to a five-year, $200 million max deal, if he wants to stay.
“I think they’re scared,” Mannix said. “I think they’re scared and should be scared to some degree of Kyrie Irving walking in 2019. I know he had a great year, but you know there are people in Cleveland that will tell you that the Knicks should be considered a real threat for Kyrie Irving. Because Kyrie had talked about it, about playing with the Knicks with some players in that Cleveland locker room from what I was told.
“You know things can change. Obviously, you go to Boston and you become the face of the franchise. You’re on a winning team. Maybe the mindset has changed significantly?”
The Knicks, as well as the Spurs, Timberwolves, and Heat, were on Irving’s wish list when he demanded a trade from the Cavaliers the last offseason. He didn’t have the leverage to dictate where he would go so he settled for a winning situation in Boston. As a free agent, he won’t have any restrictions other than the team’s ability to meet his financial requirements.
When Boston’s younger, cheaper talent started performing at All-star levels during the playoffs, I had a gut feeling that as great as the moment was, it would cause problems for the Celtics come next season. Sometimes you can have too much talent. And expecting these young boys -- who have proven they can start and be super productive against the NBA’s elite talent -- to sit the bench next season is opening a can of worms that can crack chemistry as fast as you develop it.
At least, Boston will get one season to find out if it can work. After that, the Knicks might be in the running for a franchise-changing player to go along with what hopefully will be a healthy Kristaps Porzingis in 2019.