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According to SI.com’s Chris Mannix, Ainge responded with a “yes” when asked if he wanted to re-sign Irving and with a “no” when asked if anything has happened this season that would make him rethink his stance.
The 27-year-old can become a free agent during the offseason if he opts out of his contract. In his second season with the Celtics, Irving led Boston to a 49-33 record and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, which sets the stage for a first-round playoff matchup with the Indiana Pacers that begins Sunday.
Boston has endured an up-and-down season, but Ainge talked about the respect he has for Irving’s desire to improve:
“There’s moments where he’s happy and things are going well [and] there’s moments where he’s frustrated and wishes things were different and talks about how can we get better. But one thing I like about Kyrie is he does want to get better himself. I mean he wants to take responsibility. He wants to carry a load and knows that he is capable, because of his experience and how a good player he is, that he’s capable of carrying a bigger load than a lot of guys on the team.”
At an event for season-ticket holders in October, Irving said that he planned to re-sign with the Celtics: “I’ve shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year.”
However, in the months since then, Kyrie has seemingly backed off his statement. In February, Irving said, “Ask me July 1,” when asked if he still planned to re-sign, according to Jay King of The Athletic.
On April 8, Frank Isola of The Athletic reported that many within the NBA view it as an inevitability that Irving and Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will join forces and sign with the New York Knicks.
The Knicks had the NBA’s worst record in 2018-19 and figure to have a top pick that could land them Duke’s Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett or Murray State point guard Ja Morant.
Boston has a talented roster that includes up-and-comers Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier as well as veterans Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, but the team hasn’t meshed as well as expected.
After missing Boston’s playoff run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season with a knee injury, Irving bounced back to average 23.8 points, 6.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game during the 2018-19 regular season.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick is a six-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion, and he will undoubtedly be among the top players on the open market if he hits free agency rather than re-signing with Boston.