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Ainge remains confident Irving will opt to re-sign with Celtics

Kyrie Irving recently caused some concern among Boston Celtics fans when he seemed to backtrack on his plans of re-signing with the team this summer. In an interview with a Boston radio station today, though, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sounded confident Irving will end up staying put.

The Boston Celtics cannot do anything about Irving’s future until July 1. On that date — the opening of free agency — Irving will have his choice of staying with the Celtics or testing the free-agent waters. Ainge was a guest Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” show and shared his thoughts on Irving’s recent comments and his future with Boston.

“The way I view the situation is, I think a lot of people because of Kyrie’s announcement beginning of the year, thought that there was a marriage,” Ainge said, per the “Toucher & Rich” web site. “I think it’s more like an engagement and we’re going to get married on July 1. And I think that engagement is still on as far as I know in my individual conversations with Kyrie; still engaged but we can’t make those vows, sign that contract until July 1.”

When he spoke with reporters in New York last Friday, though, Irving offered up a near 180-degree turn on his stance of staying with Boston. 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].”

Ainge said Friday he and Irving have had a “couple of conversations” since Irving made those comments last Friday.

“I don’t really know all that was going on with him. But we’ve have had some good conversations,” Ainge said. “I think you’d have to ask Kyrie [about why he didn’t say he’d re-sign with Boston], but I think that he just doesn’t like his name in all these rumors and associated with all these other players. I think he likes to be his own man and have his own mind and his own opinions. I feel like there’s still a chance on July 1 that he stays here and that’s what we’re shooting for. We still have a date on July 1.”

The questioning of Irving last week came in the wake of the Knicks clearing salary cap space after their blockbuster trade of Kristaps Porzingis last week 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.

Irving is averaging 23.8 points. 4.9 rebounds and seven assists per game this season for the Celtics, who are 35-20 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.

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.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.