Celtics

Kyrie Irving opens door to speculation that he'll leave Celtics via free agency

Kyrie Irving opens door to speculation that he'll leave Celtics via free agency

After days of trade speculation that swirled around Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics like a polar vortex, the six-time All-Star -- who missed the last two games with a left hip injury -- didn't exactly ice the rumor mill when meeting the media this morning prior to tonight's C's-Knicks game.

His return to Boston with a multi-year, max contract this summer seemed a given after he proclaimed in the preseason that he wanted to return to the Celtics.

However, when asked by reporters at the team's shootaround if he has changed his mind, Irving replied, “Ask me July 1.”

That is when the Celtics’ star becomes an unrestricted free agent and will be among the most sought-after players in the league, as part of a free agent class that includes Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson.

He also said: "At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career."

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“I spent the last eight years," he said, "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."

While Irving’s return now seems, at a minimum, far from a given, he indicated on Friday that his focus remains on helping the Celtics continue to grow in what has been a season that began with NBA Finals aspirations and despite a rocky start, remains the team’s goal.

But all the talk about Irving’s next move doesn’t help.

“People talk about my future all the time,” he said. “To me, it’s unfair to me, because I have a focus to really help this team be successful. When it starts getting out of hand and people start getting attacked personally and ‘he said she said,’ that’s so fifth grade and elementary."

Irving added: “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.”

Irving having a more open mind about his impending free agency is a surprise to some, but at the same time predictable considering recent developments.

First came the news earlier this week that Anthony Davis wanted out of New Orleans. Davis is a player the Celtics have coveted for some time but can’t acquire via trade until July 1 because of both he and Irving are signed to contracts that reward high-achieving, young players - better known as the Rose Rule - and teams are not allowed to have two players on their roster signed by the Rose Deal at the same time.

If that wasn’t enough, then came the New York Knicks trading away Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas which will free up enough salary cap space for New York to sign a pair of salary maxed players.

The Knicks have made no secret about wanting Irving this summer, and potentially pair him with another superstar (Kevin Durant? Kawhi Leonard?) and now have the salary cap space to do so.

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Haberstroh: Anthony Davis to Lakers is a 'crushing blow' to Celtics

Haberstroh: Anthony Davis to Lakers is a 'crushing blow' to Celtics

Did the Celtics make a mistake by not overwhelming the Pelicans with an offer for Anthony Davis?

The C's reportedly refused to include forward Jayson Tatum in a deal, so New Orleans opted to roll with the Lakers' lucrative trade package instead. Davis probably would have only been a one-year rental with Boston, but NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh still believes their failure to acquire Davis is a "crushing blow."

Here's why:

As for the outside teams looking in, this is a crushing blow to the Boston Celtics, who might lose Irving now that Davis is heading West. The Celtics have long believed that trading for Davis would be the best chance in keeping Irving long-term, sources say. But now they’re looking at a revamped 2018 playoff redux with Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the way with Gordon Hayward back in the driver’s seat.

Assuming Irving doesn't re-sign -- a fair assumption given the Nets rumors flying around -- the Celtics will have to find a way to build around Tatum and Jaylen Brown while hoping Gordon Hayward returns to being Gordon Hayward.

Irving's free agency isn't the only murky situation right now for the C's. Al Horford's contract situation remains up in the air as well, as the veteran big man reportedly remains undecided on his player option for next season.

Time will tell whether the Celtics' decision to not pull the trigger on a Davis trade will be a regrettable one. For now, it'll be interesting to see what Danny Ainge has up his sleeve for a backup plan.

Clint Capela, anyone?

>> Read Haberstroh's full column on the Davis deal here

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Report: Celtics intrigued by Clint Capela, but haven't had any trade talks with Rockets

Report: Celtics intrigued by Clint Capela, but haven't had any trade talks with Rockets

Despite earlier reports indicating that the Celtics engaged the Rockets on trade talks involving Clint Capela, Adam Himmelsbach reported Saturday that while the Celtics are intrigued by the center, they have not talked to Houston about a trade. 

Steve Kyler suggested the Celtics viewed Capela as a backup plan if the Anthony Davis trade fell through, and even though Davis is officially heading to the Lakers, it appears the Celtics aren't as interested as we originally thought. 

There have been reports that the Celtics have had trade talks with the Rockets about their talented young center, Clint Capela, who has four years left on his five-year, $90 million deal. A league source said Saturday that the Celtics are intrigued by Capela, but that the sides have not had any trade talks and that a deal for Capela is unlikely because Boston would not have interest in surrendering the players needed to complete the trade.

Capela is due $16.4 million next season, so for the Celtics to match salary in a deal, they'd have to include a combination of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, or have Al Horford opt-in and trade his $30.1 million salary for Capela and a player like Eric Gordon.

These are not the only possibilities for a trade, but it's difficult to construct a deal where Boston isn't giving up the same young pieces it seemingly withheld in Davis negotiations. 

Al Horford is reportedly undecided on whether to pick up his player option to return to the Celtics or enter free agency, so Capela discussions could pick up in the coming weeks or die completely once Boston gets a better idea of where their veteran center stands. 

Now that the Davis trade is out of the way, more dominos are free to fall as the NBA undergoes its most uncertain offseason in recent memory.  

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