When Kyrie Irving sought a trade out of Cleveland last summer, the All-Star point guard reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of four preferred landing spots: New York, Miami, San Antonio, and Minnesota. Minnesota?
The Timberwolves’ inclusion on that list was almost certainly due to the presence of his former Team USA teammate, Jimmy Butler. Now, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Irving and Butler are still trying to figure out a way to play together. Cowley writes that the pair — with nine All-Stars between them — intend to build an elite backcourt, “whether that’s in Boston or somewhere else in the East.”
If the Celtics don’t acquire the Timberwolves star this offseason, Irving and Butler could opt out of their contracts after next season and look to link up. Both players have contract extensions on the table, but Irving has already said he won’t be inking any deal this summer and Cowley suggests Butler will do the same.
So, would Irving walk away from the Celtics, team up with Butler, and try to build a championship contender with the Knicks or elsewhere in the East? Former Indiana Pacer Jalen Rose thinks it’s possible.
“Here’s why — because the Boston Celtics have a first-world problem,” he said on ESPN. “…They have accumulated a wealth of assets, and in a salary-cap driven sport, they’re not going to be able to pay everybody. That’s just how this works. Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, [Jayson] Tatum, Jaylen Brown — they’re all on their first contracts. So if you’re going to keep all of those guys, that means you’re going to have to let a couple of guys go. And who has the most value? The guy that they made it to the conference finals without: Kyrie Irving.”
Rose’s fellow analyst Brian Windhorst noted NBA fans have learned over the years that when stars who have played together — like Irving and Butler did at the Rio Olympics — hit free agency at the same time, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The Knicks, for one, are lining themselves up to make a run at the top free agents next year, and ESPN’s Ian Begley reported several executives expect Irving to consider making Madison Square Garden his home court.
“As we get our culture in place, [injured All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis] gets healthy, we start moving into next summer, I really feel like we’ll have the bricks in place to make some big moves,” New York head coach David Fizdale said.