Nobody knows what Kyrie Irving is going to do. Anyone who says they know what is in Mr. Flat Earth’s head is selling something.
Irving wants to carve his own path, which is why he forced his way out of LeBron James‘ shadow in Cleveland, it’s why he pushed back on the idea that what Kevin Durant or Anthony Davis or anyone else is doing as a free agent will decide what he will do come July.
Irving is at the center of the Davis trade scenarios — Boston can’t put together the same package, or have the same confidence of re-signing Davis if Irving is gone — and he’s a wild card.
Boston continues to project confidence it can re-sign Irving and trade for Davis, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.
Boston, for its part, remains cautiously optimistic about keeping Irving, though the events of the past week — Irving’s comments, New York opening up a second maximum salary slot — have shaken them. But Boston is always confident. That is Ainge’s default mindset. The league at large is much less confident, but it is hard to say who knows what, and with what level of reliability. The postseason could be really telling for so many of this summer’s headliner free agents.
Around the league, there is a sense that New York would not have done the Kristaps Porzingis trade unless it was very confident it was going to land two stars. Which is to say, very confident they got back-channel assurances. The caveat is this is the Knicks, so who knows, and things can change.
How things change ties back to the last sentence in that paragraph from Lowe — the playoffs shake everything up.
What Boston looks like after a second-round exit at the hand of Toronto is very different from what happens if Boston makes the NBA Finals. Both are very possible, the Celtics have gone 9-1 in their last 10 with a +10.7 net rating. They have looked like the team we thought would be the team to beat in the East. If the Celtics make it to the Finals, does Irving still bolt? You can make a good case for Toronto, Milwaukee, and now-improved Philadelphia to make the Finals as well. The top four in the East are tightly bunched. It’s going to come down to health, matchups, and who gets hot at the right time, plus a few lucky bounces.
(As a side note, the two of those teams that get bounced in the second round — and math says two have to — will have very different summers than if they are in the conference finals or Finals. How does Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard feel entering free agency off a second-round exit vs. a trip to the Finals? And don’t forget the Bucks have as many as eight free agents on their roster this summer.)
The Celtics may be confident, but Danny Ainge doesn’t know what Irving is thinking, either. What Irving is thinking come July 1 could be something totally different from today. There is a wild ride ahead.