At the height of the Anthony Davis trade request saga, the NBA is in full chaos mode, with swift trades and news leaking left and right. Everything now seems to rest on the shoulders of Kyrie Irving, who’s placed at the center of Davis’s future and in turn, all of the dominoes that fall after it.
It’s against this backdrop that Irving has walked back his season-opening line from October, where he told fans he planned to re-sign with the Celtics after his contract expires this summer. When asked if his intentions remain the same in an interview before Boston’s Feb. 1 game in New York, he was non-committal, telling reporters to “ask him on July 1,” and that “he’s going to do what’s best for him.”
Irving did say “obviously Boston’s still at the head of that race,” in terms of his inevitable free agency, but that’s very different than what he said on Oct. 4, when Irving, unprompted and in front of the crowd at TD Garden, said “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing next year.”
Here is the video, tweeted out by the Celtics organization:
“If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.” - @KyrieIrving pic.twitter.com/0wDLzuv5WL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2018
So what’d Irving say now?
Irving’s discussion with the largely New York-based media ranged from refusing to say much to saying a whole lot. This is, in a sense, how Irving operates.
Here’s the full video, via MassLive:
Reporter: Has anything wavered in your mind?
Irving: At the end of the day I’m going to do what I feel is best for my career. My focus is on winning a championship with the Boston Celtics.
Reporter: Has your mindset shifted in regards to re-signing with Boston?
Irving: Ask me July 1.
Reporter: It seems there’s been a shift from you on what you said before the season. Did something happen? Did something change?
Irving: I’m just going to do what’s best for me. Obviously this has become an entertainment thing for everybody. Somebody else is asking for a trade, and I’m thrown into that, and uncertainty comes back on me. At the end of the day I don’t live in this little hub. Some people call me about this dumb shit and of course my name keeps going on. I’m not worried about a reputation, I’m not worried about a legacy. I’m just trying to be a human being, trying to make the best decision for me and my family.
[Irving on why he decided to make that speech in October]: I think it was just the excitement, feeling emotionally invested coming off an injury last season, trying to prove something. Trying to become a team-oriented person which I am naturally. I’ve spent the last eight years trying to do what everybody else wanted me to do in terms of making my decision and trying to validate through the media, through other personnel, managers, anybody in this business and I don’t owe anybody shit. For me, I think the confidence I have in myself and abilities, I want to be able to control what I want to control. I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of our pieces...
What’d Irving actually say back in October?
Irving walked up to the center of TD Garden, looked on at the crowd, and said, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing next year.” There was little confusion about what he meant.
He then re-iterated that statement in a Nike commercial with his father. Shooting in an arena with a green court, the camera pans to the rafters as he says, “He’s the reason I wear No. 11. I want to be the reason nobody else will.”
“My dad sacrificed his dream, so I could live mine.” @KyrieIrving #justdoit pic.twitter.com/cxU6IMkFQs— Nike (@Nike) November 22, 2018
So, uh, yeah. Kyrie was very straightforward in October about wanting to stay in Boston.
So why the differing messages?
Anthony Davis’s trade request is unraveling all of the mess that’s quietly been hidden underneath. A trade the magnitude of Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas doesn’t happen in a day, and Irving doesn’t just suddenly walk back on his stated plans. But now it’s all surfacing at once, and as everyone’s hands are revealed, new ideas are forming for where players can be by next October.
The Knicks have two max contracts available in free agency all of a sudden, which has to intrigue Irving. Davis wants to go team up with LeBron James in L.A. — but that depends on if Kyrie actually stays long-term in Boston.
The NBA is a chess board, and Irving knows he has a stronghold. It’s his game to win. Since delivering those comments that delighted Celtics fans in October, Boston has underachieved, its young wings are plateauing, and Gordon Hayward isn’t right.
This isn’t the magical run he predicted, and he can leave this ship if he wants. People change their minds.
Still, his season-opening marks are bound to come back and bite him. He’s set himself up for a messy few months if he does leave Boston.