Kyrie Irving spent his Thursday evening settling any debate about his NBA future, announcing to fans at the Celtics season ticket-holders event that he plans on re-signing a maximum contract with Boston next summer.
Irving, 26, who has an opt-out clause in the five-year deal he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, can be a free agent in July. His intentions for next season and his future had been one of the main story lines heading into this much-anticipated Celtics season.
With Celtics legend Paul Pierce watching from the bench, Irving stood near midcourt with a microphone and said: “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year.”
The estimated crowd of 3,000 gave him a standing ovation and he began hugging teammates.
Irving has commented in recent weeks on his happiness in Boston and his desire to chase a championship with this team. There had been speculation that the New York Knicks would make a big push to sign Irving, a New Jersey native, in the offseason.
Irving will become a free agent July 1 and can agree to a maximum extension of five years and approximately $188 million. Now he is officially the centerpiece of the Celtics’ quest to win championships, leading a core group of Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum.
The five-time All-Star point guard hinted of his intentions at the Under-30 Summit Tuesday at Emerson College.
“To be in a position to even be considered a franchise free agent is pretty awesome,” he said. “At this point in my career, it’s not so much about the money, it’s not so much about the extracurricular things, it’s like OK, where am I happy? Where am I most comfortable? Who’s going to give me that [atmosphere] where I would love to grow as a human being?
“You think, ‘What about a new location?’ and it’s just like I want to be comfortable and what’s better than being in Boston? This year has felt much different because of the environment that has been created for me and by me, and going to the new practice facility. There’s nothing like playing at TD Garden.
“I didn’t say that to appease you guys, I actually love Boston.”
The Celtics hoped to re-sign Irving long term when they acquired him in August 2017 for Isaiah Thomas. Irving signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Cavaliers in July 2014, just a week before LeBron James committed to returning to Cleveland.
The Celtics knew Irving would opt out of the final year of his deal when they made the trade, and he is actually eligible to sign an extension now, but it would be for an estimated $80 million less than if he waited until July.
“I think he has an understanding after being here a year it’s all about legacy, to have a legacy here in Boston,” Pierce said. “It can be like none other in the NBA. I think he has a clear understanding of that, he’s a smart player, a smart guy. He understands that his championship window doesn’t last that long. He had his run in Cleveland and he sees the future here in Boston to where it could be really something special.”