BOSTON – When Kyrie Irving recently began backing off his “the earth is flat” comments, we should have seen a night like this coming soon.
And the recent comments about the Celtics franchise and its culture, the young, on-the-rise teammates he gets to play with and be pushed by on a nightly basis, makes Boston about as good a basketball home as Irving will find.
His return was a scenario that he just wouldn’t commit to, leaving folks baffled as to why he would even consider another team and franchise when seemingly everything he would want is right here, in Boston.
Well Irving ended any doubt as to what he plans to do next summer when he announced to season ticket holders at the TD Garden that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics this summer.
Depending on what the actual salary cap eventually winds up being, Irving’s in line for what should be a five-year deal worth about $189 million.
But what does Irving’s return mean in the grand scheme of things.
Before we delve into that, here’s Marcus Smart’s take on Irving’s return in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston.
“It means a lot when you have a guy that has won at the highest level, has been where you want to go, wants to do it again with you,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “It’s great for him, the organization and this city that he wants to come back.”
The upside is obvious.
Boston will have a 26-year-old, five-time all-star in the fold whose peak years will be spent with the Celtics.
And as talented as Irving is, he won’t be called upon to carry the franchise on a night-in, night-out basis because of the team’s depth.
Irving’s desire to return will make it difficult for Boston to also keep Terry Rozier around.
Barring a contract extension by the end of this month which seems unlikely, Rozier will be a restricted free agent this summer which gives the Celtics the option to match any offer Rozier receives from another team.
Another strong postseason for Rozier this spring may result in his market value being too high for the Celtics to feel comfortable matching, knowing they have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to worry about contract-wise in the very near future.
With Irving committed beyond this season, that might result in Al Horford opting out of his contract which pays $28.9 million this season and become a free agent with the intent on re-signing a long-term, shorter-money deal to stay in Boston this summer knowing Irving was coming back.
And let’s not forget about the role that Irving will play with this team now and in the foreseeable future.
In Boston, Irving has a championship-caliber team that’s clearly built for him to lead and win with. In addition, Irving plays with a relatively young core which has shown the promise of playing exceptional right now along with the promise of even better days in the years to come.
And as Marcus Smart pointed out to me Thursday night, Irving pledging his desire to re-sign with the Celtics now should also cut down on some of the “Where are you gonna go?” questions that Irving is sure to be peppered with this season.
“He’ll still get them, but at least he can say now, ‘hey, I already answered that question,’” Smart said. “That still won’t stop some in the media from asking him still.”
The questions may not come with the same ferocity had he not made such a strong verbal commitment to Boston on Thursday night, but they will come.
Meanwhile, Celtics fans can take solace in the fact that Boston has already hit the jackpot in free agency next summer and the season hasn’t even started.
It was indeed a shock to many, but not his teammates and the Celtics front office who were left hints by Irving – some subtle while others not so much – indicating his intentions were to be back in Boston next season.
“It didn’t really come as a surprise,” Smart said. “Like I said, this is great for him, the team and the organization going forward.”