Kyrie Irving’s future with the Boston Celtics isn’t exactly cut-and-dry. While the dynamic point guard is eligible to put pen to paper on an extension with the franchise this summer, Irving has been clear that he is unsure about what the future holds for him with regards to his tenure in Boston.
It’s the kind of thing that makes you raise your eyebrows if you’re a Celtics fan or a person who wants Irving suiting up for their team some day. Sure, he’s a bit — how do I say this — unconventional, but you still don’t expect players to be so opaque about the future. Irving, instead, is making it clear he wants to focus on getting paid next summer, especially as he uses this one to rehabilitate after knee surgery.
There will almost certainly be hot take artists who read that from Irving and do the “he’s not committed to the team” nonsense that we’ve come to expect out of radio hosts and columnists from the otherwise great city of Boston. But the thing is Irving is 100 percent right: There is, financially, no good reason for him to sit down with the Celtics’ front office now when he could be in line for a major payday next summer.
As Mark Dunphy of Boston.com laid out last week, Irving can sign a max of a four-year, $101 million deal with the Celtics this summer. That’s not exactly a small chunk of change, especially because Irving is going to make just a hair under $20.1 million this season. He also has a player option for 2019-20 worth $21.3 million, but it’d take something near-catastrophic for him to opt into that.
However, if Irving decides to sit out and wait until next summer to sign a new deal, the Celtics (which possess his Bird Rights, so they can exceed the cap to sign him) can give him a deal worth $188 million over five years. For a player with Irving’s injury history, getting the extra year and the extra $87 million that would come with waiting until next summer to sign with Boston would be huge, especially as he turns 27 next season.
Even in the event Irving decided to go elsewhere, he’d still be in line for a bigger payday than if he signed an extension this summer — other teams could offer him a maximum deal of four years and $139. It’s a little less money on a per year basis and one fewer year than the Celtics can offer, but on the whole, it’s still a much more lucrative deal than what Irving could ink this summer.
While the whole “being a team player” thing is nice and all from an owner’s perspective, the far more important thing is that NBA players have to look out for themselves. There are plenty of examples of players losing out on deals because of the actions of their team, and Irving wants to have a safeguard against that. Hell, the most prominent example of this happening might be with the guy who proceeded him as the Celtics point guard, as Isaiah Thomas had the year of his career, got shipped to Cleveland, and is now in a weird spot where there’s no way he’s getting the major payday he wanted heading into last offseason.
It’s plausible that Irving finds himself in a Thomas-like situation due to his knee, but that’s a rather unlikely scenario. What is far more likely is that he returns next year, has a big season, and gets paid by someone. There’s a risk involved, sure, but for potential $87 million more, Irving is wisely taking it.