BOSTON (CBS) — Kyrie Irving shocked a lot of people — and nearly broke the internet — Thursday night when he announced to the TD Garden crowd that he intends to sign a long-term deal with the Celtics next offseason.
It was a pretty special moment, one Irving was happy to share with the Celtics’ passionate fanbase. It’s somewhat out of character for Irving, who has been pretty guarded about his future plans until now. But the Celtics can give him the most money when he opts out of the final year of his deal, and with head coach Brad Stevens leading one of the NBA’s most promising rosters, Boston gives the point guard an opportunity to cement himself as one of the greats to play the game.
Irving discussed his announcement Friday at the Celtics’ practice facility in Brighton, admitting that he was surprised it caused such a stir. He thought it was pretty obvious that he loved playing in Boston, and dreams of being considered one of the many all-time greats to don a Celtics uniform.
“Timing is everything with this and I’m glad I can share it with the Boston fans and everybody there,” Irving said Friday. “It was a great reception and I was just happy to get it done with. I just have every intent to sign back.”
It also puts to bed all the questions about his future. He set a one question per day limit with reporters earlier in the offseason, but that likely wouldn’t have stopped a barrage of inquiries after every shootaround, every game, and any other time there was a microphone in front of him. With his intentions in the open, Irving can focus on the upcoming season without that distraction.
“Now I don’t have to answer any questions like ‘what are you looking for?'” he said with a smile. “I’m glad I can move past it and be with my teammates and we can move forward.”
That being said, Irving is playing this by the books and has not yet talked to the Boston brass about his future paydays.
“I just want to clear it up, me and Danny [Ainge] and management have not talked about any numbers so please don’t ask me about it. I don’t want any tampering or anything like that,” he said with a smirk. “So July 1, or whenever that day is, we’ll talk contract and stuff like that. But I have every intention to sign back with Boston.”
Rumors of Irving wanting to join forces with Jimmy Butler in New York ran rampant for much of the offseason, though Knicks fans were really the only ones to believe them. Irving said he thought long and hard about his future over the summer, but it was clear that Boston is the place for him, even after just one season with the organization.
“I think the important thing was just being happy and having an environment where I’m being challenged on a physical level as well as mental, and I can get better as a basketball player and as a man and grow here,” said the five-time All-Star.
“I’m happy here. Every single day is at an all-time competitive high,” he added, before taking a little jab at his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. “What more can you ask for just from an organization, taking a chance as well as getting me out of Cleveland, really taking a chance regardless of whether I was coming back or not. They had the same attitude, they wanted to show me what being a Celtic was about and I was going to come around. And I absolutely did. I believe in it, I believe in the franchise and the players we have here, and I’m just looking forward to getting this season going and focusing just on that.”
With Irving and Gordon Hayward both returning from injury, joining Boston’s promising young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have championship aspirations for the 2018-19 season. Adding the franchise’s 18th banner to the TD Garden rafters is their goal, and would be the first step to Irving taking his place on a long list of Celtics greats.
“I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I’m so blessed to do that. I’ll have to work my tail off to do that. But to throw my name in the Boston Celtics history and tradition is something I’m glad I can do, and plan on doing so,” he said. “It’s a challenge in itself. A lot of great players have come through Celtics history and quite a few stand out more than the other. That’s the challenge in itself and one I’m willing to accept. I’m looking forward to it; growing with this team and seeing where we end up.”
Kyrie Irving could have had teams lining up for his services next summer. Instead, he knows what he has in Boston, and doesn’t want to give that up anytime soon.