Kyrie Irving might leave the Boston Celtics. No, he’s staying. Oh, he’s definitely staying. Oh, now he might leave. Oh, he’s staying again. That has been the story surrounding Irving and the Celtics this season.
No one really knows what Irving (or the Celtics, for that matter) are thinking about the point guard’s upcoming free agency this summer. Will the All-Star re-up with Boston? Will he head to the New York Knicks? Will he head to the Orlando Magic or something weird like that?
When it comes to Kyrie, you can never discount anything. He’s a quirky dude, and everyone knows it.
Still, the prevailing thought this season has been that the C’s cannot afford to lose Irving in July, as it would completely undermine what Danny Ainge has attempted to build over the last few years.
But is that true?
Do the Celtics need Irving? Or does Irving need the Celtics?
Let me start by saying they are not mutually exclusive, because both can be accurate.
Irving is one of the best players in basketball and has gotten even better since arriving in Boston, drastically improving his defense and becoming a better playmaker. His leadership ability is another question entirely, as he is still learning, but if you deny that Irving is better now than he was during his Cleveland Cavaliers days, you are either just blatantly ignoring facts or you are just flat out wrong.
Basically, every team in the league could use a player like Kyrie Irving, a smooth, crafty scorer who can get his shot whenever he wants and who is battle-tested, having drained arguably the biggest shot in NBA history in Game 7 of the 2016 finals.
So, yeah; the Celtics are a better team with Irving, and you would have to be a fool to think otherwise.
Yes, Boston made the Eastern Conference Finals last season without him. I get that. But what happened? The C’s lost in seven games to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. If Irving were healthy, the result unquestionably would have been different, and a legitimate argument can be made that the Celtics win that series in five or six games with Kyrie on the floor.
Heck, if Irving were healthy last year, Boston probably would have given the Golden State Warriors a relatively tough series. The Warriors still probably would have won in five or six games, but it certainly would have been a much more entertaining event than the 4-0 curbstomping Golden State gave Cleveland.
We need to break out of this habit of trying to pinpoint Irving as a problem, because he isn’t. Look what happened to the Celtics after Irving went down with a knee injury against the Los Angeles Clippers the other night. They blew a 28-point lead. Now, obviously, a lot needed to happen for that disaster to occur, like Landry Shamet having an out-of-body experience and the Celtics being unable to throw the ball into the ocean, but something tells me that Boston wins that game if Irving doesn’t get hurt.
Let’s also keep in mind that Irving may be the Celtics’ biggest ticket to landing Anthony Davis.
With the Los Angeles Lakers failing to land the New Orleans Pelicans superstar at the trade deadline, the C’s have become immediate favorites to land him in a trade this summer.
Rumor has it that Davis is not too fond of Boston, but the Celtics may have a trump card: Kyrie Irving.
Davis and Irving would be a phenomenal duo that would certainly provide Boston with a foundation for a dynasty. Davis is 25 and Irving is 26. so they could potentially have quite a long run together.
Davis might prefer Los Angeles, but if he gets dealt to the C’s, it seems hard to imagine that he would decide to leave in free agency and pass up the opportunity to win multiple titles.
The Celtics know this, so they know they need Irving. They don’t need him just for his production, which is enough in and of itself, but they need him as a piece to convince Davis to stay in the event of a trade.
Now, as for Irving…does he need the Celtics?
The answer is yes.
Kyrie can be intrigued by the idea of playing in New York all he wants, but when was the last time the Knicks organization instilled the slightest bit of confidence in anyone that they would be able to contend for the long haul?
This is a Knicks franchise that has won just one playoff series since 2000 and has made just three postseason appearances since 2004. They also just traded away their first franchise player since Patrick Ewing in Kristaps Porzingis.
New York can pitch the idea of a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo ad nauseam, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Knicks are still the Knicks.
But the Celtics? They are not only one of the top organizations in basketball, but one of the top organizations in sports, period. They can provide Irving with everything he needs to be a superstar and an NBA legend who could eventually have his No. 11 up in the TD Garden rafters.
As strange and volatile as Irving is, even he has to know this.
Boston is already a contender as it stands. Add Davis into the mix with Irving, and you suddenly have a potential powerhouse with a terrific front office.
The Celtics may need Irving, but Irving needs the Celtics.
It’s a match made in heaven, and it’s one that should remain beyond this summer.