Kyrie Irving reportedly wants to team up with USA Basketball pal Jimmy Butler. But that reunion may not happen in Boston.
Several NBA executives expect the Boston Celtics point guard to consider signing with the New York Knicks next summer if he opts out of the final year of his contract and becomes a free agent, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported Wednesday.
Irving admitted last October the Knicks were among his desired trade destinations before he landed in Boston. The 26-year-old hails from nearby West Orange, N.J., so New York would be close to home. And while the Knicks have been horrible for several seasons, they’re one of the few marquee NBA franchises that can attract top-level talent based on their aura and reputation.
The return of 22-year-old star Kristaps Porzingis and a new head coach in David Fizdale also present an enticing draw.
“Porzingis is a magnet,” Knicks president Steve Mills said Tuesday, via ESPN.com. “He’s the reason why everyone interviewing for coaching jobs this year wanted this job.”
New York obviously would become more enticing for Irving if Butler, who also can opt out of his Minnesota Timberwolves contract next summer, promises to join him there. While Irving, who is under contract for two more seasons but has an opt-out option in 2019-20, regularly speaks highly of the Celtics and is by no means disgruntled in Boston, he has no current plans to sign a long-term extension with the C’s and has remained non-committal about his plans for 2019 and beyond.
Making room for Irving — or any big-name free agent — won’t be easy for the Knicks, who need to shed significant salary cap space between now and next summer. But if one of the best point guards in the game is on the market, expect them to launch a full pursuit.
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