Storyline: Kyrie Irving Free Agency

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Nets skeptical of signing Kyrie Irving?

The question is if they can’t land Durant, do they still want Irving? Especially if they have to lose D’Angelo Russell — their own 23-year-old homegrown All-Star — to get him? It’s a question that has turned into a civil war among the fan base. It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now. The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn’t bringing the injured Durant with him.

Because of salary cap rules, if the trade is consummated in late July, the Lakers would have the space to add another maximum contract. That cap space could be used on players like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, all-star point guards who will be free agents. That scenario would require the Lakers to draft the fourth overall pick for the Pelicans, or whatever team has its rights by the time of the draft, then sign that player as quickly as possible. League rules do not allow a signed draft pick to be traded for 30 days, which would make July 20 the earliest date the trade could be consummated.

Should Irving leave, and the team’s bid for an Anthony Davis trade fall through, then short of moving ahead with what’s left, Danny Ainge’s creativity will be tested like never before. Though he wouldn’t share specifics, Grousbeck has admittedly heard some fairly exotic scenarios being discussed. “There’s definitely scenarios being spun inside the basketball office,” he said. “I’m there every day listening to them, that involve a number of players. I’ve heard a lot of scenarios. We’ll just see what happens.”

To be fair to the situation, any story involving Irving needs to contain a disclaimer. While the two sources cited in the second paragraph are to be trusted, most anything involving Irving should be seen as a fluid matter. Nothing can be truly settled until a contract is signed, and that cannot take place until the NBA moratorium ends on July 6 at noon Eastern Time. And, as Celtic followers have come to know, Irving remains eminently capable of changing his mind.

Kyrie Irving not ruling out return to Celtics

The Celtics have known from the start that the All-Star point guard will not be accepting the $21,329,752 for next season and will look to sign a longer term deal. The club is not waiting on the deadline, in that Irving does not have to opt out; the final year on the contract is removed if he does nothing. According to multiple league sources, Irving still has not removed the Celtics from consideration as he contemplates where to sign as a free agent, though the assumption around the NBA was he was looking to go elsewhere to join up with another marquee free agent. That concept was placed in some measure of doubt when Kevin Durant — the most prominent of the potential 2019 free agents — suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Monday night.

But thanks to general manager Sean Marks paying a heavy price to clear Crabbe’s contract — one of his few mistakes since taking the job — the Nets have $68 million to spend if they renounce point guard D’Angelo Russell, and $48 million even including his cap hold. Sources have said the Nets would consider pairing Russell with Irving, and Kevin Boyle — who coached both in high school — insists they’re friends and would thrive together. Russell liked and commented on an Instagram post showing his jersey next to an Irving Nets jersey.

However, Adrian Wojnarowski noted on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo that Durant’s injury is most likely going to affect Kyrie Irving’s decision. “I think the one player it really impacts is Kyrie Irving,” said Woj. “because both the Knicks and the Nets hoped that Kyrie and KD could be a package deal, that they could sign them. Both [teams] are in a position to sign them. And Kyrie Irving certainly has a significant interest in being back in New York. If he leaves Boston, that’s the top of his list and he, I’ve been told, is really focused on Brooklyn if he was to sign with one of the New York teams. “So now the question is, for the Nets, for the Knicks, is would you sign Kyrie Irving as a solo act or would Kevin Durant want to come and essentially be a red shirt.”

Because of timing with potential Anthony Davis trade scenarios and the June 20 draft, the Celtics would benefit greatly from learning the status of Kyrie Irving’s future before he can officially hit free agency on July 1. While Ainge acknowledged that, he also realizes Irving has the right to decide on his own timetable. “It’s his choice to do what he wants,” Ainge said. Ainge said the Celtics have held “ongoing conversations” with Irving’s camp, but there seems to be no resolution yet. Almost four weeks away from the free-agency period, that’s to be expected.

If Irving indeed leaves Boston, it may have an impact on the teams in pursuit of Davis. The Celtics’ interest in Davis was reportedly predicated on their desire to pair him with Irving. Without Irving, you’d think the Celtics would be less inclined to give up a significant amount of young players/draft picks to acquire Davis. That could make the Knicks’ trade pitches to Irving more attractive to New Orleans. The Lakers are expected to be in the mix for Davis as well. Though, as other reports have noted, some people in positions of influence in New Orleans continue to prefer to deal Davis to a team other than the Lakers, per SNY sources.

Like all Los Angeles Lakers fans, swingman Josh Hart would love for the team to bring in a few more superstars to join LeBron James to start next season. The Lakers have had their eye on Anthony Davis since the trade deadline, but Hart went a different route. On The Eavesdrop Podcast, Hart said that he is hoping the Purple and Gold will be able to sign Philadelphia 76ers forward Jimmy Butler and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving in free agency. “S—, I hope we get a couple free agents. I hope we get a super team or some s—. I hope we get, s—, Jimmy, Kyrie. There’s no tampering for the players, so s—, I hope we get Jimmy, Kyrie… Just imagine if we had that. Like bro, and the thing is, all those dudes are good dudes, so everyone would sacrifice for each other. And people don’t realize, when everyone sacrifices and the team wins at the end of the day, that’s the biggest thing.”

Sources told The Post that even if the Nets don’t get Durant, they would still sign Irving and willingly pair him with Russell. But how willing is Russell? “If we’re being completely honest, I enjoyed the team that we had this whole season,” Russell told The Post. “If the situation was to come up to have pieces of his caliber around, it’ll make us a better team obviously. But I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy our team, and the pieces we had around.”

NBA analyst Colin Cowherd had a chance to discuss Kyrie’s situation with college basketball insider Jeff Goodman, who claims that he has known Kyrie for a long time. When the two discussed Irving’s situation with the Celtics during an episode of The Herd Podcast, Goodman said he knows that the All-Star guard will be signing elsewhere this summer. “I’d be surprised if he stays in Boston. You see his body language. You hear enough smoke, you know there’s something going on here. Obviously, Kyrie’s kinda moody, he’s got a tight inner circle. So, I’m not sure how much validity some of (the rumors have), but again, I don’t expect him to be in Boston. You could see it in the locker room and with his teammates, that they almost don’t know how to take to Kyrie Irving.”

Goodman added that Irving has become a difficult person to be with, and that the Celtics won’t be that devastated if they lose him this summer because they still have the core that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. “I’ve known him a long time, Colin, and, honestly, he’s become tough to like. He has. Obviously, he’s an elite level talent. But we saw it in the playoffs. He kinda got swallowed up because he’s not the most athletic dude in the world. And this group was far more entertaining to watch a year ago in the playoffs with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier. I’m not sure how many people in Boston, including Danny Ainge, would be that unhappy if Kyrie Irving leaves.”

Kobe Bryant recruiting Kyrie Irving?


Mutual interest between Kyrie Irving and the Nets

With free agency starting in a little over a month, the Brooklyn Nets find themselves in the conversation for some of the top-tier free agents, namely Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Sources tell SNY that Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston. Irving’s camp has kept a close eye on the Nets as the season progressed and the team got better, with the playoffs only helping their case.

“It becomes a melting snowball,” said the owner. “We had to trade him when we did. What team would want Kyrie with only one year on his contract knowing he could leave after the season? You won’t get much back (under those circumstances).” But there was something else. “The agent was telling us, if we don’t trade him, there is some surgery he is on the borderline of having on his knee,” said Gilbert. “It was possible he could be out for most of the year. It turned out to be true.”

Kyrie-to-Lakers a realistic option?

Irving and Lakers star LeBron James won a championship together while they were teammates with the Cavaliers from 2014-17. But Irving reportedly wanted a bigger role and asked Cleveland to trade him before he was eventually sent to the Celtics. Irving, however, said he apologized to James during a phone call in late January. Windhorst reported: “If you had asked me six months ago, I’d have said the door was closed and locked — (Irving signing with Los Angeles) was not going to happen. But over the last few months, there has no doubt been a thawing between Kyrie and LeBron, and Kyrie has become more open to joining the Lakers and has done some research on the organization.”

The most interesting bit of information from several sources that we’ve been able to consolidate and confirm is that some teams thought to have interest in Irving as a free agent are now a great deal more wary. Based on the way things played out with the Celtics this season and Irving’s role both off the court all year and on it in the playoff loss to Milwaukee, certain clubs are concerned about putting too many eggs in his basket right away. Two teams for certain are telling people they will only go after him if they land another marquee free agent and that player says he wants Irving. In each of these cases, the initial target is different. (There was worry on one of those clubs that the basketball ops people might be overruled by ownership and told to make Irving a primary aim, but that organization is now on the same page.)

What’s interesting to some is even that Irving is so potentially available this summer. When teams were trying to get into the race for him two years ago, they were informed by his side that he would definitely not re-sign with them. “We were told that the team he wanted to go to was getting ready to trade for him,” said one general manager. “And that team was Boston. So the Celtics were where he wanted to go. He got what he wanted. Now here we are two years later. Crazy.”

The Knicks are considering packaging their No. 3 pick to New Orleans in a trade for Anthony Davis. It would seem Durant would prefer a ready-made superstar as sidekick, but who knows if he’d rather have Barrett and Kyrie Irving instead — especially considering Durant’s rave reviews of Barrett’s southpaw advantage. “Getting crafty with the left,” Durant said, watching the video on a laptop. “See lefties are tough to guard, man. They can go right better than righties can go left and so a left-hander is hard to guard. He’s a lefty that uses his right, which is gonna help him. “Shoot the J, OK. Man, he’s athletic, man. He can play out top. That’s the thing. You got to be able to play out top, conduct the offense.

The C’s guard wanted out of Cleveland before the 2017-18 season and not wanting to play with James was among the reported reasons for his trade request. Irving talked during this past season about apologizing to James for the way things transpired during their time together in Cleveland, and that led some people to believe a reunion actually was possible. However, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith revealed during Monday’s episode of “First Take” a text exchange he had with people close to Irving’s family, and they were emphatic that an Irving-James partnership in Los Angeles isn’t going to happen. “From what I’m told, it’s not going to happen,” Smith said. “I got a text message from folks close to Kyrie’s family, within the hour, as we were teasing this subject. Quote: ‘There is no way in hell he’s going to LA. I don’t give a damn what anybody says, knock that down for us right now please. He ain’t going to LA.’ That’s what they say.
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June 24, 2019 | 9:42 pm EDT Update