BOSTON – Doc Rivers has been on both sides of the All-Star free agency pendulum, having convinced some to re-sign long-term while others decided to take their talent elsewhere.
His old team here in Boston will find themselves in a similar predicament next summer when a number of the team’s top players become free agents with five-time all-star Kyrie Irving leading the charge.
Rivers, who was in town as a co-host to the ABCD fundraiser at the TD Garden on Tuesday night, acknowledged there are likely a number of factors that Irving will consider.
“At the end of the day, I think it’ll come down to winning,” Rivers told NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “I really believe that. If you win enough, they usually want to say.”
Of course, there are exceptions to that with the most notable in recent years being Kevin Durant.
A perennial all-star, Durant played for one of the top teams in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City, but decided to join forces with the already-stacked Golden State Warriors and has won two championships in three seasons with them.
While the possibility of Irving leaving will be one of the story lines all season, that’s not something Rivers would recommend being all that concerned about.
“I’m not usually concerned going into the year about the guy leaving,” Rivers said. “I’m always concerned about the guy being focused while he’s here. If he’s focused while he’s here and doing all the right things, that usually tells me he wants to stay. If he’s not, it tells you otherwise.
Rivers added, “there’s going to be a lot of talk. He’s going to have to drown out a lot of stuff, or just say, “I’m staying with the Celtics.” That would be the easy way.”
When Irving asked to be traded from Cleveland last year, it was clear that part of Irving’s thinking process involved landing with a team that he would lead.
He has that in Boston.
"Kyrie's the leader of our team, the head of our team," Boston's Al Horford said earlier this year.
Although it wasn’t an absolute necessity, Irving was used to making deep playoff runs and certainly wanted to wind up somewhere that would allow him that opportunity.
He has that in Boston, evident by the Celtics getting to the Eastern Conference finals last season while he sat out because of an infection in his surgically repaired left knee.
Irving is the face of this team.
They win with and without him and are built in a way that will likely keep them in the deep playoff picture for years to come.
“It’s planned for him to be here a long time; it’s set up for that,” said Rivers who added, “We’re living in a time where guys want to test the free agent market. I think we just have to get used to it.”