Kyrie Irving is a smart guy. He thinks ahead. He seems very calculated in his decision making.
Those aren’t bad qualities to have as an NBA point guard. Those are also not bad qualities to have if you’re an elite NBA point guard who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after next season.
Irving demanded a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers last offseason. His first season with the Boston Celtics ended with him sidelined after multiple knee surgeries.
He met with the media this week, and said he won’t be signing an extension this summer. Makes sense, considering that — under the NBA’s salary structure— Irving can make more money by waiting until next offseason to sign an extension.
By not agreeing to anything right now, Irving would simply just be taking advantage of the system. And who could blame him for that?
Problem is, there are two parties involved here. Irving is one. The Celtics are the other. And maybe there’s a third that Irving has his eye on as a potential free agent either next offseason or the offseason after that.
So when Irving said Tuesday, “Contractually, financially, [an extension right now] just doesn’t make any sense,” Danny Ainge has to both understand and be a little concerned at the same time. “Concerned” might be a strong word right now, but if Irving is going to treat this like a business — which he should — then Ainge has to as well. Because, last time I checked, Irving doesn’t owe the Celtics anything.
Irving didn’t make Boston his No. 1 destination. He just wanted out of Cleveland. Maybe he loves it here. Maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know. But if he wanted to get up and leave for the New York Knicks as a free agent next summer, nobody can stop him. That’s why the Celtics can’t just look at Irving’s unwillingness to negotiate right now, nod their heads in approval, and put it aside.
We’d all like to think Irving will stay because Boston gives him his best chance to win. But if that’s the measuring stick he uses to pick his teams, wouldn’t Irving still be in Cleveland?
Ainge also has to treat this thing like a business. And he doesn’t owe anything to Irving, much like he didn’t feel he owed anything to Isaiah Thomas.
Irving is a smart guy. But so is Ainge.
That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ainge make the first move. Maybe that means sending Irving to the Knicks in a three-way deal this summer, with the Cavs sending LeBron James to the Celtics. Maybe I’m throwing crap against the wall. Maybe I’m not.
Maybe Ainge is crazy — or smart — enough to do it.
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