CHICAGO -- Like Celtics fans, the opinions about Kyrie Irving among league executives and scouts run the gamut.
But when it comes to Irving’s future in Boston, the overwhelming majority believe he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere next season.
A six-time All-Star, Irving will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
While Boston has indicated it wants to re-sign Irving, it is unclear if the feeling is mutual with Irving being linked with a number of teams led by the New York Knicks.
By signing somewhere besides Boston, Irving would be walking away from about $80 million.
But according to multiple league officials, that doesn’t matter.
“If you think the money he’s going to leave on the table by going somewhere else besides Boston is going to be an issue, you don’t know Kyrie,” one Eastern Conference General Manager told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s a different kind of guy; and a lot of the stuff that you would think would be an issue for him, he could care less about.”
A different league executive pointed out how the talk about Irving and issues with the media won’t be a factor, either.
“He’s thinking about playing for the Knicks, and we all know how big a (media) circus show that can be,” the second league official said.
Despite most of those spoken to indicating they anticipate Irving will play somewhere besides Boston next season, there were a couple of league officials who are convinced that when all is said and done, Irving will sign a long-term deal with Boston.
“He’s playing all of you guys right now,” a front-office official with a Western Conference team told NBC Sports on Thursday. “Say what you want about his leadership and all that nonsense, but the one thing we know about Kyrie is he will do what is best for Kyrie. The money, chance to win a title sooner rather than later, have his own team … all that stuff matters and when he looks at all the different options he’ll have, I think he’ll have one of those, “what the hell was I thinking?” moments and go back to Boston.”
An NBA scout who has followed Irving dating to his days at Duke agrees.
“I know this season didn’t end the way Kyrie or the Celtics wanted,” the scout said. “But when you look at what went wrong for them, it’s easy to blame Kyrie because he didn’t shoot the ball well. But when you hear what others are saying afterwards, Brad (Stevens) saying he did a bad job, players talking about how they sacrificed this and that … it’s pretty obvious that they had a lot of issues going on that were bigger than just one player, even a player as good as Kyrie.
The scout added, “I think he comes back and he comes back with an attitude; a little edgier with not just his words but his play.”
All agreed that the addition of Anthony Davis via trade would bode well for their chances of re-signing Irving, most believing the Celtics have to do that before they can officially get Irving back into the fold.
“Obviously they want Anthony Davis. Hell, we all want Anthony Davis,” a Western Conference front-office official said. “But even if they strike out on getting him, they still have to make changes. If they’re going to go all-in on Kyrie, they have to build this team around him with guys who can complement more than the last year’s team.”
And while all those spoken to by NBC Sports Boston had their own rationale for what they believe will be Irving’s fate, the one thing they were unanimous on is that there will be changes made to Boston’s roster next season.
But will those changes include Kyrie Irving?
Stay tuned …
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