If the Boston Celtics are faced with a situation this summer where they could sign LeBron James but would have to trade Kyrie Irving because he doesn’t want to play with James, or keep Irving and let James sign elsewhere, what path should the C’s pursue?
ESPN reporter Chris Haynes shared his thoughts on that dilemma during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics Talk Podcast.
“I would have to ship Kyrie,” Haynes said. “The reason I say that is because playing with LeBron, you don’t necessarily need another ball-dominant guard. And then Terry Rozier has shown that he can be a formidable force. That’s why I say you make that call.
“Look, LeBron James, we’ve always thought that at some point his play was going to diminish, it was going to subside. We’re still waiting and he’s 33 years old. Not only are we waiting, you could make the argument he’s gotten better. If I’m the Celtics. If I’m placed in that scenario, I have to think, look, Boston is in the East, of course. I bring the best player on board, and he hasn’t shown any signs of declining. I have a good three-year window to compete for a championship.”
There likely are a few reasons why you might have to trade Irving to sign James as a free agent (if he opts out of his current contract). For starters, there reportedly was friction between the two that played a part in Irving requesting a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer. Second, to bring in James, the C’s would have to jettison a lot of salary, likely a player on a max contract, and the only players on Boston’s roster signed to one are Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward.
The easy answer to the overall conundrum seems like trading Irving and signing James. But it isn’t that simple.
James, as Haynes points out, still is an elite player and probably the NBA’s best despite being 33 years old. But Irving is only 26, and despite his injury history, it’s clear he’s a top-10 player when healthy. Irving also is a proven playoff performer and fit seamlessly into Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ system this past season.
The chances of the Celtics have any real shot at signing James likely are slim, anyway, but if they had to choose between James and Irving, it could be the hardest decision the franchise has made in a long time.
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