Sitting in a chair across from the Knicks bench at the Garden on Friday morning, Kyrie Irving tossed a symbolic can of gasoline on the fire of speculation surrounding his future.
Nearly four months after he told thousands of fans in Boston he planned on re-signing with the Celtics this summer, Irving left the door wide open for a change of heart.
“Ask me July 1,” Irving said, when asked if his mindset had shifted since his October proclamation. “I’m just going to do what’s best for me.”
Of course, Irving was saying this in the arena New Yorkers have long hoped would be his future home. Those feelings only intensified Thursday, when the Knicks pulled off a blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas, opening up room for them to sign two max-contract free agents this summer.
So, about that commitment to Boston?
“I spent the last eight years trying to do what everybody else wanted me to do in terms of making my decisions and trying to validate through the media, through other personnel, managers, anybody in this business,” Irving said at the Celtics’ shootaround. “And I don’t owe anybody s–t.”
The NBA schedule-makers hit the jackpot on this one, with Irving making his return from a hip injury Friday in the arena that suddenly had gained a glimmer of hope to end up hosting him full-time next year. The New Jersey product figured to be in for a raucous night at the Garden, where he was greeted with the loudest ovation during pregame introductions — though there were plenty of Celtics fans on hand, too.
“I respect the Knicks organization,” Irving said. “Obviously they’re making moves to position themselves for this upcoming summer. I wish them the best.”
Midway through the third quarter, the Garden broke out in loud chants of “We want Kyrie!” making it clear what the fans’ idea of a best-cast scenario is.
As for his October promise to Boston fans, Irving said it was “just the excitement, feeling emotionally invested” to begin a new season after coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for the Celtics’ playoff run in 2018. This season, they seemed to have all the pieces ready for a championship bid with a healthy Irving and Gordon Hayward and young players such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
But Irving admitted the season has not gone as he had planned, with the Celtics entering Friday at 32-19 and tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. He has not been afraid to share his frustration about their growing pains, though they had won seven of eight before facing the Knicks.
“I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of pieces,” he said. “Set a goal and go after it and then see what happens at the end of the season. That was the plan before and that’s still the plan now. Obviously Boston’s still at the head of that race. That’s just where it stands.”
Except calling it a “race” indicates the plan has, in fact, changed from his preseason verbal commitment — in the theme of Irving saying he feels like this is his “college recruitment all over again.”
While Irving could have quashed some of the speculation Friday, he seemed annoyed that his name had been tied to trade rumors at all and blamed the media for the distraction. The noise has only increased since Anthony Davis requested a trade from the Pelicans on Monday, which kicked off a week of hysteria in the NBA ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline.
“Somebody else is asking for a trade and I’m thrown into that and uncertainty comes back on me,” Irving said. “I don’t want to answer all these questions about my future all the time. It’s unfair to me, because I have a focus to really help these guys grow as individuals and really help this team be successful.
“He said, she said, that’s so fifth grade and elementary. This industry is just so F’d up. It’s my decision at the end of the day.”
Source: Read Full Article