Conventional wisdom had us all believing that Kyrie Irving would be using every moment he has this weekend to huddle up with Anthony Davis who like Irving, will be in high demand this summer.
But as you watched Irving navigate through various All-Star related activities and functions, there was another superstar that Irving seemed to be bonding with quite a bit – Kevin Durant.
Yes, Kevin Durant of two-time defending NBA champion Golden State who is part of what will be one of the most star-studded free agency classes ever beginning on July 1.
Despite the success Durant has enjoyed with the Warriors, there is a general consensus among league executives that the perennial All-Star will at least give serious thought to taking his talents elsewhere this summer.
And among the most talked-about locations for him has been New York, a team that has made no secret about wanting to pair him and potentially Kyrie Irving together which can actually happen now that the Knicks have sliced and diced their payroll to the point where they can absorb a pair of max-salaried contracts this summer.
All of this follows a logical train of thought on Irving’s intent and motives this weekend … which is why I’m not buying it.
If there’s one thing we know about Kyrie Irving, it’s that he operates in a manner that doesn’t necessarily subscribe to traditional or predictable patterns of thought.
He’s an individual unlike any individual in the NBA, something that can frustrate some while leaving others to sift through his sayings and see that if you dig deep enough you’ll find substance – something you can’t say with any certainty about most NBA players.
And that substance often comes in the form of something that again, doesn’t necessarily subscribe to conventional wisdom.
So while everyone may see him and Durant bonding as a sign of them looking to take their talents to the Big Apple, should anyone be shocked if Irving might be trying to sell Durant on Boston?
And unlike Davis, Durant (or his people) have consistently shown respect and admiration for the Celtics franchise.
In fact, it was only a couple years ago when the Celtics were legitimately in the running to land Durant when he was a free agent following his last season with Oklahoma City.
Durant, fresh off a trip to the Western Conference finals with the Thunder that ended in defeat to the soon-to-be NBA champion Golden State Warriors, had invited five teams for a face-to-face meeting: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio, Miami and Boston.
The Celtics’ contingent on the visit included key players and members of the front office, in addition to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady whose legion of fans included Durant.
As impressed as Durant was with meeting Brady and getting a better sense of what it would be like to be a larger-than-life star in Boston, it didn’t resonate how they had hoped.
“I mean, I love Tom Brady, but I don’t know if he can help me if he was on the court with me right now,” Durant told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic at the time. “I love that people wanted me on their team, but at the same time, I just wanted to hear from the coaches and the players about what they needed or why they wanted me on their team and what I needed to do as a player.”
There’s no way of knowing for sure where the Celtics fell in the ultimate pecking order of those teams that failed to land him then, or where they stand now as Durant will once again hit the free agency market.
But it’s fair to say that the Celtics have done nothing to hurt their chances at landing him since then, with Boston having split the season series with Golden State each of the last three seasons and will look to do the same when the two meet next month.
Which brings us back to Irving, whose comments earlier this month gave increased optimism that he would seriously consider signing with the New York Knicks this summer, and potentially arrive with a superstar like Durant or Davis.
As alluring as the bright lights of New York may be, you have to wonder whether they are more focused on winning at the highest levels now versus helping build a winning environment that may take a couple years before it can evolve into a title-contending culture.
Because both Irving and Durant in Boston next season would automatically make the Celtics the team to beat in the East and frankly, the biggest threat to the Golden State machine in years.
But if they decide to play for the Knicks, New York becomes one of the top teams in NBA but are far from a legit threat to topple Golden State and for that matter, not necessarily a favorite to emerge from the East immediately.
So as much as we will continue to monitor Davis and Boston’s efforts at landing him, don’t sleep on the Celtics and their potential pursuit of pairing Irving with Durant, a superstar who has shown nothing but respect and admiration for what the Celtics have done in recent years.
As Kevin Garnett reminded us in 2008 … “Anything’s possible.”
Source: A. Sherrod Blakely