NBA Rumors: Teams Still See Kyrie Irving As 2019 Free Agency Target Despite Commitment To Celtics, Per ‘ESPN’

Kyrie Irving on the court in a Celtics jersey.
Elsa / Getty Images

Earlier this month, Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving announced his intent to re-sign with the team when he becomes a free agent next summer. This helped to quiet down rumors that Irving was planning to move to another team in the 2019 offseason, with the New York Knicks often being mentioned as a potential destination. However, a new report from ESPN suggests that several NBA team executives aren’t convinced by the All-Star point guard’s verbal commitment to remain a Celtic for the next few years, still believing that he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-19 season.

As previously reported by CBS Sports, Irving made his verbal commitment in the first week of October, during a Q&A session with season ticket holders at the TD Garden in Boston. Speaking in front of the Celtics fans in attendance, Irving said that he “plans on re-signing here next year” if he continues to get support from the team’s fanbase. This was reiterated some weeks later, as he told the New York Daily News on Saturday that New York “[holds] a special place” for him, given the fact that he grew up just 15 miles away from Madison Square Garden. However, Irving reaffirmed his commitment to remain a Celtic, despite how he gave “strong consideration” to the Knicks.

In a report published Wednesday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst commented that even with Kyrie Irving’s plans to re-sign with the Boston Celtics — possibly on a five-year, $190 million contract in 2019 — there’s still a possibility that those plans could change. He also suggested that there are several NBA teams that haven’t given up on their hopes of signing Irving as a free agent, despite his recent statements.

“As any college coach will tell you, a verbal commitment is just that. Also, the Celtics probably will be willing to make the five-year offer to Irving, but that’s not in stone at this point with Irving’s history of injuries and many months to go. Plenty of executives have the magnet with Irving’s name on it slapped in the ‘UFA’ (unrestricted free agent) column on their whiteboards.”

As further noted by Windhorst, there could be as many as 10 teams that have a “reasonable” chance of freeing up enough salary cap space to sign a player on a maximum contract next summer, with “another handful” of teams already able to afford such players. Without naming Irving as a specific target, Windhorst mentioned the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Philadelphia 76ers as the teams who could theoretically snap up a big-name free agent in the 2019 offseason.

As of this writing, both Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics have gotten off to a slow start in the first few days of the 2018-19 NBA season. The Celtics fell to a 2-2 record after losing to the visiting Orlando Magic on Monday, while Irving is averaging 16.5 points and shooting 39.1 percent — both well below his career numbers of 21.9 points per game and 46.1 percent shooting from the field.