Do the Nets know something we don't about Kyrie Irving's future?

Do the Nets know something we don't about Kyrie Irving's future?

The Brooklyn Nets cleared their path to chasing two maximum-salary players this summer when they reportedly agreed to a deal Thursday that will send Allen Crabbe and his $18.5 million salary to the Atlanta Hawks.

That the Nets were willing to move their own 2019 first-round pick to make the deal happen suggests a team that’s brashly confident in their ability to maximize those two slots. Remember, this would have been the first time Brooklyn had control of its actual first-round pick since 2013.

In breaking the news of the trade, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that, “Boston guard Kyrie Irving -- who is expected to become a free agent -- and Brooklyn have a strong mutual interest.”

Listen, if you subscribe to the whole “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory, then this hasn’t been a great week for those Celtics fans who want Irving back in green (even if, at times, it feels like that’s a low number, anyhow).

First, Stephen A. Smith suggested that Kyrie Irving has given “every indication” to the Nets that he wanted to sign there. Then Irving posted a video on Instagram of him hugging a New Jersey crossing guard from his childhood (the Nets were previously in Jersey). Then Irving got photographed walking into an apartment in New York, all while Danny Ainge sounded less than confident about where Irving and Boston’s so-called “engagement” stands.

The Nets came flying in from the top rope with a move Thursday that might have been their way of signaling to Irving, "Hey, look! You can come here and bring a friend!" (Cough, cough, Kevin Durant). The only people taking this news harder than the faction of Celtics fans that want Irving back is all the Knicks fans who thought the duo was ticketed for Madison Square Garden.

So the lingering question is whether the Nets know something more about Irving’s intentions or if they’re simply rolling the dice and positioning themselves for what should be an absolutely wild July.

The Knicks and Nets both have room for two max-contract free agents. The Clippers could soon join them. The Lakers have a max slot and might have the assets necessary to finally coerce the Pelicans into an Anthony Davis deal.

The Celtics are left hoping that Irving can at least give them some direction sooner than later. Boston has the assets to position itself in the Davis pursuit but might not be willing to navigate that path if Irving isn’t coming back, in part because if Davis bolted in the summer of 2020, the Celtics would be left with a bare roster and none of the future assets — like all those Nets picks — that helped it expedite the last turnover process.

Ainge noted in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday that typically the Celtics have Plans A through G ready for the summer. This year, Ainge noted it’s more like A through Z. And that’s probably a good strategy considering how wild things could get.

Is Irving simply putting pressure on Boston to make the sort of moves that would encourage his return with Brooklyn flirtations? Ainge said Wednesday that he didn’t know if there were any moves he could make that would heighten Irving’s desire to return.

"I don’t know the answer to that,” said Ainge. "I don’t know that yet.”

Are the Nets simply posturing themselves as confident about their chances at Irving in hopes the hype makes it a reality? Brooklyn GM Sean Marks has done a remarkable job steering the Nets back to being competitive despite being devoid of quality picks and, regardless of the Irving pursuit, the team is extremely well-positioned to emerge as a true player in the East.

Plucking Irving from Boston, of course, would be the ultimate NetsPick revenge.

For now, there is only one certainty: That there's still 14 days until draft night, and 10 more days after that until free agency truly begins.

Buckle up. This ride might be as bumpy as the Celtics’ 2018-19 season.

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Jaylen Brown shares how Kevin Garnett motivated 2017 Celtics with colorful voice memos

Jaylen Brown shares how Kevin Garnett motivated 2017 Celtics with colorful voice memos

Kevin Garnett's impact on the Boston Celtics didn't stop when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets just over seven years ago.

The ex-Celtics big man also is one of the NBA's greatest motivators who continued to check up on his former team after leaving Boston.

Jaylen Brown certainly can attest to that. During an interview with ESPN's Ros Gold-Onwude, Brown explained how KG would send voice memos to the team during the season, often with strongly-worded (and NSFW) messages. 

One of those messages came during Brown's rookie season in 2016-17, when Garnett chewed out the young wing for displaying poor body language.

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"I was at the end of the bench with my head down," Brown said, "and he sent a voice message through my strength coach over the phone like, 'You better pick your mother------- head up!'

"He was cursing me out. He was like, 'You've got to carry yourself a certain way.' So, he told me to pick my head up and fix my body language, right the f--- now."

Brown took KG's colorful message to heart and has blossomed into a confident two-way star for Boston in his fourth season.

The 23-year-old also recalled the poignant voice memo Garnett sent the Celtics during their 2017 first-round playoff matchup with the Bulls. Boston trailed 2-0 to No. 8 seed Chicago and was reeling from the tragic death of Isaiah Thomas' sister, Chyna.

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"He spoke so much life into our team," Brown said. " ... It was probably the most OG message you will ever hear in your entire life. It was dope.

"I remember him saying, 'There's two ways you can go. Either you can go backward or go forward. I feel everybody's emotions. Channel it out there and hit them in the mouth.' "

The Celtics did just that, winning four straight games to win the series and rallying behind Thomas to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

So, when Garnett's number gets raised to the TD Garden rafters in the near future, remember that his legacy with the Celtics goes far beyond his on-court performance.

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kemba Walker admitted he “wasn’t really happy” with the way he was playing before the 2019-20 NBA season paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but said after a “needed” break that allowed him to rest a bothersome knee, he’s eager to get back on the court with his teammates for the Orlando restart.

Walker declared himself, “ready to go,” after using the downtime to heal a knee that hindered him over the final six weeks of play.

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“[The break was] super important for me. I really, really needed to get that break,” said Walker. "It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interests for sure. So I’m pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I’m just going to keep on taking care of myself. That’s really all I can do, so I’m just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day.”

Walker earned his All-Star nod by averaging 22 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc through the end of January. A sore knee first forced him to sit out on January 18 but sidelined him for two longer stretches — and nine total games — in February. Walker averaged just 16.8 points while shooting 31.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc in his final eight games before the season paused.

Some of Walker’s struggles were masked by Jayson Tatum’s ascension. But the Celtics know they need a healthy Walker to reach their loftiest goals in Orlando.

"I’m definitely ready to try and expand my game to higher levels so we can just be a better team,” said Walker. "Especially the way I ended the season, I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing. So I’m excited.”

Walker admitted he’s still trying to get back into game shape. But the downtime allowed him to really examine how he can best help the Celtics.

“I’m a lot more comfortable, especially realizing the change and everything that went down during the season, the ups and downs,” said Walker. "I’m definitely more comfortable with my teammates. We’ve been talking all quarantine. I got a chance to watch a lot of games over the quarantine, so, yeah, I think I’m more comfortable. I’m ready to go.

"We're pretty excited. I know everyone is just excited to see each other. From Day 1, honestly, with this team, our vibe and our chemistry was already there for a very long time. That first day anybody had seen anyone, it was like we were with each other yesterday, you know? It's that kind of team we have. We're just so close and we're just looking forward to going out there and just handling our business.”

Walker said he’s not particularly concerned about the recent COVID spike in Florida and believes the NBA will do everything to ensure player safety. As for worries about being stuck inside the bubble for a particularly lengthy stretch if the Celtics embark on a long playoff run, Walker dismissed that while noting, “All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there's nothing wrong with me staying in a [hotel] room.”

Added Walker: "I'm actually looking forward to it just because I'm ready to play basketball.”