To get a fair understanding who Kyrie Irving is, referencing his belief in the earth being flat and not round is a great point to start. He has been described as strange but brilliant on so many occasions, it has stuck in the minds of many as truth and his latest comments only says so much.
Prior to the start of this season, Irving sounded very optimistic and confident about signing a long term contract with Boston once his contract runs out later this year. That speech was made at a time Boston was supremely confident of running away with the Eastern Conference title based on the team’s activities and those outside the team’s control.
With LeBron James leaving the East and taking his talents to the West specifically Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics had to be confident of an easy conference title ride considering they were just a win away from winning the title.
Moreover, they pushed LeBron and the Cavaliers to Game 7 without its big new signings- Gordon Hayward and Irving- who were injured.
Fast forward five months and Boston is third (largely down to Indiana Pacers losing Victor Oladipo for the rest of the season and Philadelphia Sixers inconsistent play) in the East standings on the back of a roller coast season thus far. Very little is clicking for the team as Irving and Hayward get reintegrated into the team and play within Brad Stevens system.
Kyrie has belittled his teammates in public regarding leadership and title winning attitude and those teammates -specifically Jaylen Brown–have thrown shady messages back at Kyrie. The sticking point came from Irving who distanced himself from his earlier comment about committing to the team stating “ask me on July 1”. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation but here are reasons to believe Irving’s time in Boston won’t be long and heading to New York Knicks.
Health and money reasons
The Celtics have played 53 games this season but Irving has missed nine due to rest and varied injuries including a hip injury. In his first run with Boston last season, Irving played 60 out of 82 games and missed the entire playoffs due to illness. The same situation panned out in Cleveland as he missed five of six games in the 2015 NBA Finals series against Golden State Warriors after missing games in the regular season. Back at Duke University, he played just 11 games before a knee injury kept him out for the rest of the year but got drafted first overall due to the production he put up in his brief time.
After seeing the immense success his team chalked without Irving last season, Manager Danny Ainge is bound to be fully committed on handing Irving a five year, $190 million contract. Kyrie is looking out for a max contract in what is surely his last big payday for on court activities and anything short of that amount is sure to push him to another franchise. The New York Knicks have carved up $75 million in cap space after trading Kristaps Porzingis to divvy between Irving and another free agent though the best they can offer is a four year deal worth the same amount of money. Irving is from New Jersey and the enormous off court money in New York’s enormous market should make up for the lost year of guaranteed money from Boston.
His fit in Stevens system
Brad Stevens has been likened to San Antonio Spurs legendary Coach Gregg Popovich for their similarities in creating plays that evidently enhances the abilities of the team than a player. Rather than follow the thread of hero ball tactics en vogue in the NBA, the pair design plays that create great looks for players to score. Irving is the kind of player who wrecks systems with his dazzling highlight crossovers, hard runs to the basket and heavily contested shots.
He bristled at Hayward when the former Utah Jazz Forward didn’t give him the ball on an inbound pass for an attempt to get Boston the go ahead points for the game winner against Orlando Magic. Kyrie’s actions and comments after the call summed up his displeasure about working in such conditions. Without Irving, a prototypical Stevens call is likely a decoy play where the supposed closer would be targeted but only to draw more opposition attention to himself for the other players to get more room to shoot. However, against Golden State, the Warriors had it easier defending a late shot attempt with the ball in Irving’s hands.
Living up to his reputation
Living up to his strange reputation would be the sole reason behind Irving’s decision to leave a winning situation with Boston Celtics for a losing situation with New York Knicks. Boston is positioned to play a host of postseason games with Brown, Jayson Tatum, Stevens and Terry Rozier around. On the other hand, New York has nothing but former high draft picks rebuilding their values and place in the NBA. The Knicks are also pinning their hopes on a yet to be picked player from the draft whose future in the league is unknown. That is how bad the Knicks are they should be good enough for Irving and his ego.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter