Instead of diving into this piece right after the season ended last Wednesday, I thought it would be better to take a week to gather my thoughts (and by gather my thoughts…I mean grieve). We are now officially onto what is shaping up to be one of the most important off-seasons in recent memory for the Celtics. For a quick recap, here is how the roster stands today:
Under Contract For 2019-20
- Gordon Hayward
- Marcus Smart
- Jayson Tatum
- Jaylen Brown
- Guerschon Yabusele
- Robert Williams
- Semi Ojeleye
- Kyrie Irving
- Al Horford
- Aron Baynes
- Terry Rozier (RFA)
- Daniel Theis (RFA)
- Marcus Morris Sr. (UFA)
- Brad Wanamaker (UFA)
New York, New York? SIKE
First and foremost, everything this offseason depends on one man’s decision, and that man is Kyrie Irving. While it is clear now that Kyrie is planning to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent (*GASP* I know you’re all shocked by this news), what he does from there has been highly debated. From the start of the season this has been a tumultuous 9 month charade based around the idea of Kyrie hating his teammates and having one foot out the door.
We’ve heard everything from…
“He wants to go to the Knicks with Kevin Durant to revive the glory of the franchise!”
“He’s just trying to pair back up with his daddy LeBron in LA…what a coward”
“He’s a Brooklyn kid, the Nets have a fun/young team that Kyrie could fit on seamlessly”
As I’ve been on record here of saying, I have always believed, and still believe that Kyrie Irving will be back in green next season. First off, remember why he got out of Cleveland in the first place? It was to get away from LeBron and to have his own team. He has that in Boston and if he were to leave he would most certainly be sacrificing that, and in turn become #2 yet again to either LeBron or KD.
Second, in terms of championship aspirations, those teams are all further off from the Celtics. From the Knicks standpoint, it goes to inexperience and overall depth as reasoning against Kyrie going there. Even with KD also in the fold, I don’t see that team being on the same level as the Bucks/Raptors (unless major overhaul happens with the rest of the roster), let alone being able to take them out in a series. On the Lakers side, all of this hinged on Anthony Davis, and now that the Pelicans snagged the Zion lottery ticket it seems unlikely they’ll be able to land the superstar big man. For the Nets, ok listen, if I can actually be talked into Kyrie going to any of these teams, it would be the Nets. Young talent across the board, cap space to go get another star, an up and coming market close to where Kyrie grew up in New Jersey, and good god would Kyrie look epic in their Biggie alternates (I need to cut this off here because I am infatuated the Nets and don’t want this to turn into a D’Angelo Russell/Caris Levert love-fest)
Lastly, other than what the media has had to say questioning his every move, I think Kyrie likes it in Boston. He gushes about TD Garden and the overall experience of being a Celtic. It has to hurt him inside that he couldn’t deliver in his first chance to do it on such a big stage for the green, especially after having to sit out last year’s playoffs. No matter how much much we’ve been fed that he hates his teammates, I’ve taken it as quite the opposite. Just after Game 2 against Indiana he said that he was “looking forward to that challenge with (his) brothers”. He’s as close to Marcus Smart as anybody is and from the jump has been a sort of mentor to Jayson Tatum. Layer that with the support he’s gotten on record from guys like Horford/Morris and there’s a pretty strong case that we’ve all been fed the media nonsense he was discussing when he told everyone to “Ask Me July 1st”.
As we’ve seen confirmed this past week, this team had very real issues this season and it was evident how much of an effect they had on the team as a whole. Couple that with Kyrie learning on the fly how to be a leader and you have yourself a tried and true recipe for disaster. From calling out the “young guys” to having his meltdown on the court against the Magic, I just feel like Kyrie is really misunderstood. I think he genuinely thought he was helping the team by doing these types of things and was confused to see how poorly it was all received. He’s a different type of guy than we are used to and a lot of the time it feels like he’s just trying to keep it real. Spoiler alert: controversy (warranted or not) arises in WAVES if you try to keep it real. He constantly says too much and due to that we all read into it like it’s the best book we’ve ever read.
It was the perfect storm this season for such disappointment and after some reflection Kyrie will realize that (if he already hasn’t). If he decides to jump ship it’ll be such a short sighted move and I don’t expect that from Kyrie. What happened LAST season should also have as much of an impact as what occurred this season. They clicked last year on all cylinders and after another off-season of getting Hayward reintegrated, having the kids grow/develop a bit, and bringing in other reinforcements, the Celtics should be due for a major comeback next year. How sweet would it be to come and go on an F-Everybody tour through the league to shut everybody up. If all of that isn’t enough motivation, I don’t know what is.
Not only do they have a bright future running it back with the current roster, but there is always a chance that Danny Ainge will reel in the biggest fish in the pond and pair Kyrie Irving with Anthony Davis for years to come. Now that my friends…that is a reason to stick around.