BOSTON -- Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving unexpectedly announced he plans to re-sign with the team during a question-and-answer session in front of season-ticket holders on Thursday night at TD Garden.
After being asked about the possibility of having his No. 11 jersey retired one day, Irving dramatically stood up and, addressing the fans, said he plan on re-signing with Boston.
“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,” Irving said to applause.
Smiling wide at the reaction of the crowd, he added, “I appreciate it."
Irving, who was noncommittal about his future at the start of the summer, has gone out of his way to express his fondness for Boston in recent weeks. That culminated with Thursday’s declaration, which came at the end of a Q&A he did alongside teammates Al Horford and Gordon Hayward.
Irving had begun telling teammates and front office personnel about his decision to re-sign with Boston in recent days but no one in the organization knew for sure if — or when — he’d make a public declaration.
Paul Pierce, sitting courtside for the event, clapped along with fans as Irving made the announcement.
"I think that’s huge. I think [Irving] has an understanding after being here a year, it’s all about legacy. To have a legacy here in Boston, it could be like none other in the NBA.
"I think he has a clear understanding of that. He’s a smart player, he’s a smart guy. He understands that championship window. Also, it doesn’t last that long. He had his run in Cleveland and he sees the future here in Boston that can really be something special. I think he notices that."
Irving's announcement, after a series of low-key skills challenges, was surprising only because of its timing. Irving had joked this summer about hoping reporters would limit their inquiries about his future to one question per day.
Irving will be in line to ink a five-year, $189 million extension after he opts out of the final year of his current deal next summer. Irving said in June he had no interest in an extension this summer, particularly one that would pay him roughly $85 million less than what he can earn by signing a max deal with Boston.
Many have wondered if Irving could be lured by a team with max cap space and most speculation centered on the New York Knicks, given Irving’s New Jersey roots. But Irving had gone out of his way in recent weeks to express his appreciation for Boston.
Still, his announcement sent shockwaves around the NBA. Though Pierce said he wasn’t surprised.
"It’s not surprising to me because, when you look at his situation, this is like a great situation for him,” said Pierce. "It’s not that he’s on a team that’s getting older, he’s on a team that’s pretty much at the start of their prime right now, with him being at the forefront, and something that could go on for a long long time. Even as he gets older, he has younger guys that can really pick him up if he starts to decline when he gets into his 30s and getting older. I mean this is a perfect situation for him."
Irving’s return bolsters Boston’s position as an NBA power for years to come with a core of Irving, Horford and Hayward, in addition to up-and-comers Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier.
It also checks off one of Boston’s most important tasks next summer. With Irving likely to be a mere formality to sign, the Celtics can put their attention on others — whether that’s Horford opting out of his final year and exploring a lower-money extension, or the possible restricted free agency of Rozier.
The 26-year-old Irving, a five-time All-Star, averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists over 32.2 minutes per game during his first season in Boston. He appeared in 60 games last year before a balky left knee ended his season in March.
Irving has expressed hope that, with both him and Hayward returning this season, the Celtics could take another step towards competing for a title.