Having already sent Kyrie Irving through that door once, Dan Gilbert expects the star to seek newer pastures again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers owner told The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto on Wednesday he believes the Celtics guard will leave Boston this summer as a free agent. Irving can opt out of his contract July 1 and enter free agency, and countless rumors have linked him with moves away from Boston following its disappointing regular season and second-round exit from the NBA playoffs.
?I don?t know, but I think Kyrie will leave Boston,? Gilbert said.
Gilbert’s Cavs traded Irving to the Celtics in 2017 in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick, which Cleveland used to select Collin Sexton. Gilbert couched his Irving prediction inside a larger explanation of the pivotal trade.
?We could have ended up with nothing,” he continued. “Looking back after all the moves (Cavs general manager) Koby (Altman) made, we killed it in that trade.”
The Cavs reached the 2018 NBA Finals in their first post-Irving season, largely due to the fact LeBron James still was on their roster. James joined the Los Angeles Lakers last July as a free agent, and the Cavs’ fortunes nosedived to a miserable 19-63 season in 2018-19.
Irving requested the Cavs trade him that fateful summer, and Gilbert said the Cavs quickly complied because the timing of the demand left the Cavs with few other viable options.
?It becomes a melting snowball,? Gilbert said. ?We had to trade him when we did. What team would want Kyrie with only one year on his contract knowing he could leave after the season? You won?t get much back (under those circumstances).?
Irving also was battling a knee injury, and Gilbert said the All-Star guard hinted he might opt for corrective surgery, which would have sidelined him for months.
?The agent was telling us, if we don?t trade him, there is some surgery he is on the borderline of having on his knee,? Gilbert said. “It was possible he could be out for most of the year. It turned out to be true.?
Gilbert heeded Irving’s agent’s warning, and the player ultimately underwent the knee operation, which prematurely ended his first season in Boston. Irving’s second campaign as a Celtic was rocky, to say the least, and Gilbert’s previous experience with the mercurial guard leaves him to believe that’s how his tenure with the team will end.