It’s difficult to tell the mood of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics point guard has been helping coach USA mini-camps. He filmed his Uncle Drew movie. And, he is also rehabilitating from the knee injury that kept him out of the postseason.
Irving claimed he was ecstatic when the Celtics thrived in the playoffs without him. But he also turned down the option to re-sign before his free agency in 2019. Then he expressed an interest in teaming up with team USA counterpart Jimmy Butler, which doesn’t seem likely to happen in Boston.
Boston should be worried that Irving could walk away in 2019. They have a winning team, coach and organization, but Irving has walked away before. He left Cleveland after playing sidekick to the best player in the world, LeBron James, and going to the finals in three consecutive seasons.
The Celtics should worry that Irving could be planning a move out of Boston.
When he demanded a trade out of Cleveland, Irving listed Miami, Minnesota, New York and San Antonio as his preferred destinations. Boston did not make that list, but Jimmy Butler’s Minnesota Timberwolves did. Now, both of them will be free agents in 2019. Meanwhile, Butler wants out.
The two guards want to play alongside each other, and the rumors of New York being a possible destination should concern the Celtics.
Irving will be able to decide on his own future in 2019 because he decided not to re-sign with Boston this offseason. They are favorites to re-sign the guard in 2019, but they might consider trading him if they think he can walk away.
Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge is extremely proactive and doesn’t shy away from big trades. Ainge traded stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for picks and a handful of players in 2013, which then helped the Celtics move on from their aging stars and eventually land Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. In 2017, Isaiah Thomas was traded after an MVP caliber season. Therefore, the Celtics may act early and send Irving away for another star or future draft picks.
If he isn’t traded, becomes a free agent and walks away, he should join the Knicks. It’s the perfect situation for the guard because he can play in a big market, play alongside his friend Jimmy Butler, and team up with young star Kristaps Porziņģis.
A trio of Irving, Butler, and Porziņģis would be extremely dangerous. They would have one of the best offensive point guards in the league as well as two of the best two-way players. The Knicks also have a new head coach in David Fizdale, who has respect from many players around the league.
The Knicks would be the perfect landing spot for the Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler. Neither Kyrie Irving nor Jimmy Butler would displace a star, but instead be huge upgrades at the one and two guard positions.
New York City loves basketball and reveres their stars. He would be hailed as a savior after disastrous seasons under Phil Jackson and the failed Carmelo Anthony era. Their new coach is a respected and proven, and should help turn the franchise around.
The Knicks have several young talents that could prove themselves this season. Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Emmanuel Mudiay have a lot of potential. They also have proven big men like Porziņģis and Enes Kanter.
A starting lineup of Irving, Butler, Knox, Porziņģis and Kanter could take the league by storm. Especially if Knox fulfills the massive potential he has shown. Now, Irving could always stay in Boston and help create a dynasty that could rule the East for several years. He is still young and has many years to improve his own game. He is one of the best guards in the NBA and one of the top players out East. But if he does leave, he could create his own super-team in New York and find a way to brighten his spotlight even more.
But, who could Boston get back in a potential Irving trade? The Celtics reportedly wanted Kawhi Leonard. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has been a long-term target of theirs. If the Celtics make a trade, Irving is the likeliest to move because he has one year left on his contract. Otherwise, he will walk away for free.
Boston dreams of a dynasty would be shattered if Irving left, if only temporarily. He is the best player on the team while making Boston a true super-team and title contender. A lineup of Irving, Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford could win multiple titles over the next few years.
But that’s only if Irving stays.
The Celtics have many options, though, so expect Danny Ainge to work some magic one way or the other. Whether it means securing Irving on a long-term deal or getting a massive return for the All-Star.