Gordon Hayward

Report: Kyrie Irving cautious, but optimistic about long-term future with Celtics

Report: Kyrie Irving cautious, but optimistic about long-term future with Celtics

Kyrie Irving struck a more optimistic tone about his future in Boston in an interview with Boston Sports Journal, but still remained non-committal about where he'll play beyond next season.

“I think that’s the exciting part about all this is that when you’re shaping up to gear up to be a championship-caliber team for years to come — which I think [C's president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] has echoed for a little bit," Irving told BSJ's Brian Robb (subscription required). "I’m just appreciative to be a part of it and see where my career can take off as well. I’m excited.”

Irving, who by training camp is expected to be fully recovered from the offseason knee procedure that kept him out of the playoffs, said he's excited to finally get to play with Gordon Hayward, who should be back from his ankle injury. Hayward joins a mix of emerging stars (Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) along with veterans (Irving, Al Horford). 

“I’m just excited to see what that looks like, really getting that experience with G and seeing what other pieces we have going forward," Irving said. "When you add another prominent ballhandler, creator of opportunities, scorer and defender in Gordon, that’s something you can’t necessarily talk about it, you can only see. That’s something a lot of us are excited to see from G.” 

There is also the looming presence of LeBron James and his free agency this summer. The Celtics are long shots to sign James, but Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports the C's could be worried about the impact even talking to James would have on Irving, his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate.  “Let’s begin with the fact that I get the feeling the C’s are concerned with the effect if they were to even ask Kyrie Irving how he’d feel about a reunion,” Bulpett writes.

As for the long-term, Irving sounded cautious, echoing comments he made to the New York Times last week.

“For me, it’s my job to just stay present," he told Robb. "When all that stuff at that time comes, we’ll see what happens.”

Because of the NBA collective bargaining agreement and salary-cap rules, by waiting for a new deal until the summer of 2019, the BSJ story points out, Irving would be able to make $190 million over five years with the Celtics, rather than signing an extension this summer for four years, $108 million. 

Also, next summer the Celtics would have financial advantages over other suitors: They can offer a five-year deal with 8 percent annual raises, while other teams can only offer four years with 5 percent raises.

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Bean: Weighing the obstacles of LeBron-to-Boston

Bean: Weighing the obstacles of LeBron-to-Boston

I would love for LeBron James to be on the Celtics. Why? Because he's the best player in the world and it would probably get the Celtics at least one NBA title in the near future. Championships rule. LeBron rules. 

But it's not as simple as just signing the player, as we all know. In addition to having to ship out at least one key player to make the money work, it would also mean abandoning what seems to be a pretty clear path to a long run of Eastern Conference dominance. 

Yet if there's any player worth changing plans for, it would have to be LeBron. Here are the things - assuming LeBron chooses the Celtics, which is a big "if" - that could get in the way: 

1. YOU CAN'T TRADE GORDON HAYWARD


Technically you can, of course, but if the Celtics were to trade Gordon Hayward one year after selling him on Boston, it would be Danny Ainge's coldest move. Much, much colder than trading Isaiah Thomas. 

The IT thing was cold, of course, but it was also similar to a lot of trades. Teams trade players at the end of their contracts all the time. As for the personal tragedy recently endured by the player - and this isn't to downplay that at all - but it's actually more common than you'd think for players to be traded while going through something awful in their lives. The details just aren't always brought to light. 

But convincing a top free agent to pass up more money elsewhere to play for you and then trading him before he's played a full game? That very rarely happens in any professional sports. This is because executives are well aware (and rightfully fearful) of the message it sends to future free agents/trade targets whose blessings would be needed to complete a deal. 

Obviously, the fact that a potential Hayward trade would be for the best player in the world is an important thing to note. It wouldn't be like the C's signed Hayward and then flipped him for a couple of draft picks. LeBron is a once-in-a-generation, so in the moment, we'd all understand why the Celtics would do it. 

And it wouldn't even hurt the Celtics in free agency immediately. A team with LeBron, Jayson Tatum and others? Free agents would be champing at the bit to join that. 

But what about in a few years when LeBron's gone and the Celtics are back to what they were when they signed Hayward: a good team hoping to add a player and be great? Those free agents will have other choices just like Hayward did, but the other suitors won't carry as big a threat on pulling the rug from under the player. 

THE KYRIE THING


If Kyrie Irving is willing to play with LeBron, which could be a possibility, great. Those guys obviously play well together. If not, you're risking pissing off your franchise player one year before he can opt out and sign somewhere else. 

If not, what are you doing? Kyrie doesn't make enough for him to be easily traded as the outgoing piece in a sign-and-trade, so then what? You sign old-ass LeBron, trade Al Horford to make room for him, then trade Kyrie somewhere else? 

The first thing that comes to mind there is trading Kyrie for a big. Karl-Anthony Towns would be a hell of a get. Then ask yourself this: If the Celtics should supposedly be concerned with Irving potentially walking after next season, wouldn't any team trading for him be concerned as well? Irving is one of the best players in the league, but he's also coming off knee surgery and could potentially hit free agency next summer. Would a team really trade a Karl-Anthony Towns for him now? I'd guess not. 

IT WOULD INTERFERE WITH WAITING OUT THE WARRIORS


After next season, the Warriors could start to finally take some hits. Klay Thompson will need a raise. Depending on what he does this summer, Kevin Durant could also be up. Draymond Green will be a free agent the following summer. 

By the time all that happens, Chris Paul will be 35. So, you'd have the Warriors potentially breaking up and the Rockets getting old. Even if the Celtics don't have any titles between now and then, their current plan would have them in position to be favorites once those teams endure their roster challenges. 

If the Celtics add LeBron, they'd be making themselves better now - while the Warriors and Rockets are also loaded - while not being as potentially dominant a few years from now when the competition may be less daunting. 

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