Why are Kyrie Irving's latest comments causing such a stir?
As always, context is key.
Irving opened the door for speculation he may leave the Boston Celtics in free agency, telling reporters at Madison Square Garden on Friday to "ask me July 1" about whether he'll re-sign.
- FORSBERG: When we expect Kyrie to zig, he zags
Irving's remarks stood in contrast to the apparent promise he made to Celtics fans in October that he planned to stay in Boston for the long haul.
So, what should we make of his apparent flip-flop? You be the judge.
Below is a timeline of the notable comments Irving has made since joining the Celtics via trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in August 2017.
September 1, 2017: Irving explains his reasoning for demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James at his introductory press conference.
"It was my time to do what was best for me in terms of my intentions, and that’s going after something bigger than myself and honestly being in an environment that’s conducive to my potential. I think that statement is self-explanatory, because it’s pretty direct in terms of what my intent is: To be happy and to be with a group of individuals that I can grow with.
“And that’s not a knock on anything that’s transpired in my six years [on the Cavaliers], because it was an unbelievable experience. … So, me leaving wasn’t about basketball. It was more or less about creating that foundation of me in Cleveland, and then now taking this next step as a 25-year-old evolving man and being the best basketball player I can be.”
June 12, 2018: Entering the final season of his contract, Irving is asked whether he'll sign an extension with the Celtics before the 2018-19 season.
"Contractually, financially, it just doesn’t make any sense. I’m pretty sure management and I will have a talk, but that talk won’t happen now."
October 4, 2018: Irving announces his intention to re-sign with the Celtics during a question-and-answer session with season ticket holders at TD Garden.
"I shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization and everyone else in Boston: If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year."
October 5, 2018: Irving explains his surprise announcement to the media the following day.
"I have every intention of signing with Boston next year. I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I'm so blessed to do that. I've worked my tail off, obviously a lot of great players have come before me, but to throw my name in Boston Celtics tradition and history is something I'm glad I can do. And I'm planning on doing so."
" ... Honestly, thinking about starting over was just a shitty thought. Honestly. It just was like, man, I do not want to move again. I do not want to uproot my family and just be dealing with everything new again. No disrespect to any other organizations, but here was a perfect fit."
October 5, 2018: Following a game against the Knicks in New York, Irving confirms he considered requesting a trade to his hometown team before joining Boston.
"Every team was under consideration. But obviously New York held a special place for me, being from Jersey and obviously envisioning myself as a free agent, and ultimately taking a meeting, playing for Fiz [coach David Fizdale], and the great young core they have, thinking about playing here. Playing with KP [Kristaps Porzingis], that was a big thing, before I made my decision to plan on re-signing back with Boston. But yeah, of course, New York was a strong consideration."
November 12, 2018: After a 1-4 road trip, Irving suggests the Celtics should add another veteran player.
"Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do."
January 12, 2019: Irving appears to demand more from the Celtics' young players after a road loss to the Orlando Magic.
"Experience. It’s the best thing I can say is experience. We’re lacking it and, because of that, we have a lot of learning to do. So we have a lot of ground to make up in that aspect. It gets tough. When it gets hard you’ve got to think. You’ve got to do the right things. You can’t gamble and think that it’s going to be the winning play. You’ve got to be able to play the full 48 minutes, no matter what’s going on, and hold your head high when you make mistakes. When your job is called upon, you’ve got to do it to the best of your ability. You’ve got to come in and make an impact for the minutes that you’re playing out there.
"You’ve got to appreciate being out there and just competing. It doesn’t matter who you’re going against. It matters the type of preparation you have, what you’re going out and trying to accomplish. What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are things I don’t think some of my teammates have faced of just every single day. It’s not easy to be great."
January 16, 2019: Irving admits he called LeBron James to apologize for past disagreements and ask for leadership advice.
"I had to call Bron and tell him, I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything to be at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people. Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world.
" ... So, I think what that brought me back to was like, all right, how do I get the best out of this group to the success they had last year and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.”
February 1, 2019: Irving appears to renege on his October promise, instead insisting he'll make the decision that's best for him.
"At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career. I spent the last eight years trying to do what everyone else wanted me to do -- managers, other personnel -- and I don't owe anybody shit.
"I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of pieces. That’s what excited me at the beginning of the season."
"... It’s my decision at the end of the day. Who cares who said what’s best for him, like, it doesn’t matter. It’s unwarranted commentary, and of course it’s going to continue throughout the season. I’m aware of that. I’m a professional, I’m not going to disrespect anybody but like I said, it really comes down to what’s best for me and my family."
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