Kyrie Irving will not agree to a contract extension this offseason because he’ll make a lot more money (provided he’s healthy this year) by waiting till next summer. That’s just math. Same rules apply for Jimmy Butler. They have all their options available to them next year so it is natural for them to consider everything.
Recent reports indicate that those two players would like to team up to play together.
A league source close to the situation told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving and former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler — who’s been playing with the Timberwolves since a draft-night trade in 2017 — are still trying to figure out a way to play together. The Celtics could try to acquire Butler this summer, or the two former Team USA teammates could simply opt out of their player options after next season and join forces then. Their intent is to build an elite backcourt, whether that’s in Boston or somewhere else in the East.
Additional outlets have come out with rumblings that support this story (at least the part about the players being fans of each other and having interest in teaming up). So there’s a least some smoke to this rumor to keep an eye on.
The Celtics won’t have the cap room to add more max level free agents next season, so unless they swing a trade for Butler mid-year or get very creative with the cap, this theoretical team-up likely won’t happen in Boston.
Does that mean we should be running for the hills bemoaning the end of a new Celtics dynasty that hasn’t had a chance to get started yet? (Yep, that’s a hyperbolic, sarcastic, rhetorical question. Forgive me.)
Zach Lowe weighs in with this analysis/report:
Boston is confident it can re-sign Irving despite chatter -- credible chatter -- that Irving and Jimmy Butler would like to play together, per league sources. They’ve earned such confidence.
Without my own set of inside sources all I can pull from is my own read on the situation from many miles away. I will point out that worst case scenario of Kyrie leaving as a free agent is on the table. As unlikely as it sounds right now, a lot can change in a year (ask Isaiah Thomas, or really anyone from the 2016-17 team). Free agency gives players leverage and now more than ever they are being creative and finding new ways to team up and form their own version of super teams.
However, I would submit that Kyrie already has a pretty special team in place right now. Remember how excited he was in the press conference welcoming Gordon Hayward to the team? Read any of the quotes he’s made about this past year’s team run through the playoffs and you can feel his enthusiasm.
Kyrie Irving is a superstar and he’s in the prime of his career. If he wanted to he could team up with Jimmy Butler and who knows who else and create a special team somewhere. That’s his right and a risk for the Celtics to consider. (I just don’t see that being a risk worth shopping him in trade talks)
Or Irving could take the Celtics offer (which will be more than what any other team can offer him) and build upon the foundation that will play out on the court this coming year. If this team comes close to the loft expectations that they’ve earned, that could include a run to the NBA Finals and perhaps even a banner in the rafters. Hard to imagine him walking away from that, but I guess you never know.