BOSTON — While the rest of the NBA was transfixed on the Anthony Davis drama in New Orleans, the New York Knicks delivered a trade deadline bombshell by reportedly dealing Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday afternoon.
On the surface, the Knicks seemingly took back an underwhelming amount of talent in a package headlined by Dennis Smith Jr., while giving up one of the NBA’s most unique players. But in getting Dallas to eat the bloated contracts of Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks have positioned themselves with room to chase two max-contract free agents this summer.
That’s no insignificant development and one that will create aftershocks on both coasts. The Knicks have long been rumored to be a team that might be able to lure Kevin Durant out of Golden State this summer and now the Knicks can sell Durant — or any top-line free agent — on the idea of finding an All-Star buddy to bring along to New York. That’s a game-changer in a league where players routinely daydream about creating their own superteam.
Add in the possibility of the Knicks securing a game-changing talent in this year’s draft and there’s the start of a rapid return to respectability.
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The trickle-down effect in Boston will be increased speculation about what Kyrie Irving will do this summer. Irving’s name has been in headlines this week with reports suggesting he’s no slam dunk to return to Boston — despite his preseason declaration that he planned to re-sign here — while others have suggested that Irving might be open to the idea of playing alongside LeBron James again.
Both suggestions seem like overcaffeinated speculation. Yes, the 2018-19 season has been more trying than Irving and the Celtics probably could have predicted, and Irving’s declaration that he phoned LeBron James led outsiders trying to connect all sort of dots. Sprinkle in the possibility that it might benefit a team trying to acquire Davis to suggest that some indecision exists in Boston, and it’s easy to see how things might have snowballed.
But nothing Irving has said recently has suggested any sort of change of heart from his October announcement. Irving hasn’t been available to reporters in recent days while sitting out the past two games due to a hip strain. It will be interesting to see how exactly he addresses these reports at his next availability.
Irving is not listed on the Celtics’ injury report for Friday’s game in New York, which means he might not only return to the lineup but address reporters for the first time since the scuttlebutt intensified.
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Those around the Celtics organization have suggested that there’s no reason to believe Irving has changed his mind about wanting to be in Boston long-term. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday during an appearance on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program that he talks to Irving daily and believes Irving has enjoyed his time in Boston. Ainge reaffirmed the team’s desire to have Irving back beyond this season.
Irving can opt out of the final year of his rookie extension this summer and sign a big-money extension. That would also eliminate the “Rose Rule” provision that has prevented the Celtics from making a run at Davis this season (the collective bargaining agreement prevents a team from trading for two players of such designation).
Even if Irving reaffirms his desire to return to Boston, it’s likely that rumors will persist about whether he might ultimately change his mind this summer. The Knicks’ blockbuster will only force those questions to intensify and Irving’s future will remain a hot topic until he formally inks his next deal in July.
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