* Tonight on ESPN: Celtics vs. Knicks, 7:30 ET
A little more than four months ago, Kyrie Irving seemed to guarantee he would re-sign with the Boston Celtics this summer. Irving has a player option for next season, but said in early October at a Celtics fan event at TD Garden: "If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here."
That notion has apparently changed for Irving.
As he spoke with reporters in New York before tonight's road showdown with the Knicks, Irving offered up a near 180-degree turn on his stance.
With rumors swirling about the New York Knicks and other teams and that Irving may not be fully committed to his earlier stance to stay in Boston, Irving was asked about his mindset in re-signing. His answer?: "Ask me July 1.”
Further, Irving said of his potential change of heart about staying in Boston: "I don't owe anybody [expletive]."
"At the end of the day I spent the last eight years trying to do what everybody else wanted me to do in terms of making my decisions and trying to validate through the media, through other personnel, managers, anybody in this business," Irving said.
"I’m not worrried about a reputation, I’m not worried about a legacy to leave, I’m just trying to be a human being and make the best decision for me and my family."
Kyrie Irving said at the end of the day he’s going to do what’s best for his career. “Ask me July 1,” he said about whether his mindset has changed.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 1, 2019
Kyrie Irving said he still has confidence in the Celtics and what they promise for the future. “Obviously Boston’s still at the head of that race.”— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 1, 2019
Kyrie is annoyed with all the speculation about his future. “This industry is so efffed up,” he said.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) February 1, 2019
Kyrie: "At the end of the day I spent the last eight years trying to do what everybody else wanted me to do in terms of making my decisions and trying to validate through the media, through other personnel, managers, anybody in this business."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 1, 2019
“I’m not worrried about a reputation, I’m not worried about a legacy to leave, I’m just trying to be a human being and make the best decision for me and my family.”—a visibly annoyed @KyrieIrving when asked about his commitment to the Celtics after this season— Cassidy Hubbarth (@CassidyHubbarth) February 1, 2019
The July 1 date is when free agency opens in the NBA and when, in theory, Irving could re-sign with the Celtics ... or move on.
The questioning of Irving comes in the wake of the Knicks clearing salary cap space with their blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis yesterday to the Dallas Mavericks. By making that trade, the Knicks could potentially have enough salary cap space to sign Irving and perhaps another top-level free agent.
Still, Irving in now way closed the door on staying with Boston, either. He said he has confidence in the team, adding: "obviously Boston is still at the head of the race," in keeping his services.
"What excited me a lot about the beginning of the season was the opportunity to come into this season really just doing what we planned on doing, set a goal and go after it and then see what happens at the end of the season," Irving said. "That was the plan before and that’s still the plan now."
Kyrie: "What excited me a lot about the beginning of the season was the opportunity to come into this season really just doing what we planned on doing, set a goal & go after it & then see what happens at the end of the season.That was the plan before & that’s still the plan now"— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) February 1, 2019
Irving is averaging 23.7 points. 4.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game this season for the Celtics, who are 32-19 and No. 4 in the Eastern Conference. The six-time All-Star's future has been a trending topic entering the final year of his contract. Rumors persisted that several teams, including the nearby Knicks, were harboring hopes luring Irving via free agency.more than the rest. That's a challenge in itself and I willingly accept ... I'm looking forward to it."
On Oct. 5, Irving spoke with reporters and reiterated his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics when the summer of 2019 rolls around.
"I'm talking to our media people and we're just like 'I think you're supposed to say something.' I'm like, you know what, timing is everything with this. I'm glad I can share this with the Boston fans and everybody there," Irving said. "I was just happy to get it done with. I just have every intent to sign back. I just wanted to clear that up."
Irving said it became clear to him recently he wanted to re-sign with Boston and that he aspires to finish his career among the franchise's greats.
"I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I'm so blessed to do that," he said. "A lot of great players have come before me, but to throw my name in Boston Celtics tradition and history is something I'm glad I can do and plan on doing. I can sit up here and say I want to be one of those guys, but a lot of great players have come through in Celtics history. Quite a few stand out."