Which team will Kyrie Irving play for in the 2019-2020 regular season?
Boston Celtics -- +105
New York Knicks -- +250
Brooklyn Nets -- +305
New Orleans Pelicans -- +1000
Field (any other team) -- +400
As expected, the Celtics are leading with the New York teams, the Knicks and Nets, behind. However, an interesting wrinkle are the Pelicans as the dark horse. They’ll have a few contracts coming off the books next season and could potentially become a player due to Anthony Davis. But, it’s a long shot for sure.
The odds are a bit surprising based on the summer of Kyrie Irving news and rumors that seems to suggest he already has one foot out the door. Vegas doesn’t seem to buying it all the way and for good reason; a majority of it is speculation. Let’s recap how this Irving rumor mill has gone down.
The Kyrie Irving summer of speculation
So, all the way back in May, Chris Mannix went on his podcast and speculated that the Celtics should be scared of losing Kyrie Irving because he heard that while in Cleveland Irving used to tell teammates how much he wanted to play in New York. Some digging shows that the New York Daily News reported that Irving wanted out of Cleveland and was considering firing his agent who wanted him to stay back in February of 2014. That was the season before LeBron James came. However, from that time to James’ return, Irving re-signed his current 5-year deal with the Cavs and was looking to build his own team, getting commitments from Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza, and Channing Frye according to David Griffin during his “Deals and Dunks” show on Sirius XM.
Then, James arrived, the plan Irving had to build the team around him vanished and the three-year rocky relationship between Irving and James ensued before Irving finally requested his trade. Irving went from having a team built around him to being a piece in King James’ puzzle, and he wanted a chance to maximize his talents.
When he requested his exit from Cleveland, Irving’s public list included the Spurs, Heat, Knicks, and Timberwolves. From there the misdirection and speculation went rampant. Pablo Torres “reported” that Irving wanted to “badly play for the Knicks” and then reporter Mitch Lawrence reported that Irving actually preferred to play for the Spurs with the Knicks as a “long shot.” Then, David Griffin made an appearance on The Jump and (accidentally) reported that Irving had the Celtics on his list of teams that he wanted to play for.
It’s important to remember that at this time, the Celtics still had Isaiah Thomas and could have been trying to keep the news quiet of their pursuit to upgrade the point guard position. Nobody really knew of the extent of his injury at that point and because it wasn’t clear that they would actually get that upgrade, they probably didn’t want to have him disgruntled going into the season. Eventually, Irving ended up on the Celtics, he waxed poetic on the Celtics, and Boston now has their point guard of the future, right?
Well, not so fast.
When Irving was asked about his future with the Celtics by Sopan Deb of the New York Times, Irving offered this response:
“Well, I mean I know that question is going to come up a lot over the next year, just based on where my deal is, 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...I just have to take it as being present with the Boston Celtics. You know, and just going into this year with the mindset of trying to win a championship.”
That’s a far cry from pledging allegiance to the Celtics. In addition, his public comments were in line with older reports of his interest of playing for his hometown team and Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler both had unclear futures. That was enough to get the rumor mill rolling.
Not listed: anything from Irving’s camp, which Marc Stein of the New York Times recently expanded on:
“Kyrie Irving’s intentions are not at all clear at this point. There have been no firm indications from Irving or his camp that the All-Star guard is eyeing an exit from Boston next summer or that he’s angling to go to New York — as is often speculated.”
The key word here being “speculation” because that’s ultimately what this summer has come down to when it comes to Kyrie Irving’s long-term status. People hate not knowing, and the paralysis drives them to connect dots that sometimes aren’t there. But for those that take comfort in history, you’ll be surprised to learn that noncommittals are the trend for Irving during contract years. Before Irving took his rookie extension there were talks during his contract year about his camp not wanting to stay in Cleveland long-term and he was described as being “noncommittal” for most of the season leading up to the contract. Sounds a bit familiar, right?
Irving went from being unhappy with the coach and some of his teammates (read: Dion Waiters) to being ecstatic and signing for the long-term once Coach Blatt and Lue laid out their offensive vision for the team. From there, we know that Irving went on to recruit Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza, and Channing Frye before LeBron came and seemingly changed the team’s initial vision. Coach Blatt was soon fired and after three trips to the Finals, Irving was disgruntled enough to request a trade.
As David Griffin eloquently said on Bill Simmons’ podcast, what Irving was robbed of during those last three years was his a chance to maximize himself on a winning team:
I think the fit of LeBron and Kyrie was difficult because Kyrie was so good offensively and had been carrying the load offensively for a bad team. Hadn’t been raised to understand how to lead and help you win necessarily. Hadn’t been given that opportunity yet and just when we were going to be good LeBron shows up and it’s his team. So he never got the chance to take the natural progression in his career where he had to try to carry the load and see how good he could be. And he really wanted that. He’d been doing it on a bad team. He wanted the chance to do it on a good team.
Comparatively speaking, Boston is allowing him to take that step. He’s talked about having a voice within the front office and coaching staff, and even went as far as laying out what he thinks the Celtics’ rotation will be next year. Irving is getting a chance to maximize his talents in the way he was pitched on before signing his extension his Cleveland, pre-LeBron. By all accounts he’s happy with his situation and the Celtics are confident that they’ll re-sign him.
None of that means that Irving can’t just decide he wants to live closer to home or play elsewhere and leave. However, it does suggest that his non-commitment right now could be more about leverage than the wanting to get out of town. We’ve all just assumed that when Irving re-signs, it’ll be for the max. It’s possible that after the most recent knee procedure the Celtics want to wait and see before offering the full max, or Irving is still undecided on if he wants the full max or the 2+1 deal and wants to see how he feels after the season. It could also just be simply about wanting to put all his effort into the 2018-2019 season, Irving called this upcoming season a year of “redemption” and after the way last season ended, it’s possible that he just wants to clear his mind of anything except basketball and getting to back to The Finals.
We’ll never really know until this all gets settled eleven months from now, but as of today, the only things we do know is that Irving and his camp are not publicly or privately stating future intentions and that he’s happy in Boston. Everything else is just noise.