Everybody knows that the New York Knicks are going all in on Boston Celtics superstar and 2019 free agent Kyrie Irving.
And there are some within the NBA's inner circles that believe Irving, who grew up in New Jersey and clearly loves the appeal of New York City, is already bolting to play in a new Garden come 2019. But don't include ESPN lead basketball presence Adrian Wojnarowski, perhaps the NBA's top and most well connected insider throughout the league, among that group just yet.
“I still would take Boston against the rest of the field," Wojnarowski said on The Woj Pod. "I think in the end, there comes a moment of truth when you look around and you have to make a decision about somewhere else. And when you really start inspecting the questions that are in almost any other circumstance he would go to, you’d say, ‘Boy, it’s pretty good [in Boston].’”
To Woj's point, the Celtics offer something that will be extremely hard for Irving to find anywhere else, as they have plenty of win-now pieces (such as Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) in addition to a young core (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum) that can align the Celtics as the Eastern Conference's powerhouse for the next three to five seasons (if not more). The Knicks, meanwhile, would have to build their appeal around the play of Kristaps Porzingis, and also have the hope that another star is willing to come to the Knicks to team up with their theoretical one-two punch of Kyrie and Kristaps.
And though Woj admits that the time seems right for the Knicks to get somebody on a max deal -- and not recklessly spend money on mediocre talent like Phil Jackson did with Joakim Noah -- that player being Kyrie is going to be harder than you'd think given the comfort of Irving's current situation as the face of a legitimate championship contender.
"I think they get a real [player]. I think they’re in position to potentially get a guy," Wojnarowski acknowledged. "Of course they’d love for it to be Kyrie. But I still think Boston is in position — from top to bottom, and if he’s healthy, and that team achieves [its goals] — I still think it’s gonna be really hard to walk away from [the Celtics].
"And guys always wanna make sure they have leverage. [Irving]'s coming off a knee surgery and you wanna make sure you get exactly the contract you want. If he’s healthy, I just assume he gets the full max. Whatever you want, how many years do you want to do it, whatever you want, that’s the deal [the Celtics will] do."
The 26-year-old averaged a Celtics-best 24.4 points and 5.1 assists per game in 60 games last season.