The star guard was expected to be one of the most sought-after players in free agency next summer when his five-year, $94 million contract comes off the books, but Irving isn’t planning on going anywhere.
At an event for Celtics season-ticket holders at TD Garden on Thursday, the 26-year-old verbally committed to re-signing with the franchise as he told the fans in attendance: “I’ve shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organisation as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year.”
What Irving shared with the crowd is the same message he’s given the Celtics’ front office over the past few months, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The public declaration on Thursday was the most definitive Irving has been about his future, but he’s implied his intentions in interviews over the past month leading into the season.
“Who wouldn’t be a part of this?” Irving said told ESPN in a story published two weeks ago. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Gordon Hayward?
“People keep saying, ‘Why won’t he commit to Boston?’ Well, there are financial implications involved.”
Those financial implications refer to the discrepancy in money Irving can earn if he waits until free agency to re-sign, rather than inking an extension now. The difference could be nearly $80 million in Irving’s favour if ends up signing a max contract next summer.
Still, it’s somewhat surprising to hear Irving so forthcoming because nothing is set in stone until he officially re-signs. In terms of leverage, Irving gains nothing by making his intentions so clear this early.
However, by getting out ahead of all the rumours of where he could end up, the move may strengthen the Celtics’ chemistry even more heading into the season. With the questions over Irving’s future likely to die down, Boston will have one less distraction to deal with as they vie for a championship.
Irving’s proclamation may also allow the rest of the Celtics players to feel comfortable as they find their roles in a stacked roster. Young guys like Tatum, Brown and Terry Rozier should no longer feel as if they’re stepping on Irving’s toes by having an aggressive mindset, for fear of chasing him away.
With one of their primary concerns for the future already solved, Boston couldn’t be in a better position going forward.
When James joined the Lakers this summer, many assumed another star would be on the way. Instead, Los Angeles signed a bunch of veteran role players, seemingly putting all the pressure on LeBron’s broad shoulders.
However, the second star the Lakers are searching for could come from within if Ingram makes a jump in his third season.
The former second overall pick looked like a potential franchise cornerstone last season, when he averaged 16.1 points on 47.0 per cent shooting from the field and 39.0 per cent from deep, along with 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists.
At just 21, Ingram’s ceiling is sky high, and if the limited sample size playing next to LeBron in the preseason is any indication, the two could have a symbiotic relationship on the court.
After James and Ingram showed a nice rapport in the first preseason game, the Lakers’ young gun really impressed with his showing in Thursday’s 128-123 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Ingram filled in as the starting point guard and put his ability to score and be a playmaker on display, finishing with 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.
James, who has spoke highly of Ingram ever since arriving to Los Angeles, continued his praise after the Lakers’ first preseason victory.
“I thought he was great,” LeBron said. “His pace, his ability to play the point and play the wing, he’s a very special talent, and we’re definitely happy to have him on our side.
“I know what I see in him, and he’s looking for his opportunity to make the next jump in his third year. There’s a lot of upside in that kid. I’m happy to try and give him as much as I can.”
Ingram may never be Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving for LeBron, but the potential to get there is undeniable.
Los Angeles fell to the Denver Nuggets 124-107 on Sunday, but the new-look Lakers showed flashes of what they can be this season and how they can compliment the best player in the world.
James was on the floor for just 15 minutes, finishing with 9 points on 2-of-6 shooting, to go with three rebounds and three assists.
He didn’t have the ball in his hands as much as he did during his time in Cleveland, with Rajon Rondo and even Brandon Ingram often initiating the offence.
The Lakers want to ease the load on James’ shoulders by surrounding him with playmakers rather than just shooters, and Rondo, who had 11 assists in 23 minutes on Sunday, clearly has the chops to take over the reins at times.
Ingram, meanwhile, looked like a primary scorer as he dropped 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while showing promising chemistry with James, who looked to get the third-year forward involved by finding him on cuts.
The offence in general looked to go up-tempo as much as possible by pushing the pace off rebounds and made baskets.
Between James, Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball – who missed Sunday’s game as he continues to recover from surgery for a torn left meniscus – the Lakers have plenty of high IQ players, versatile players.
On his part, James acknowledged he’s on a new chapter in his career and in a situation that feels foreign to him right now.
“It always feels different for me anytime you change uniforms,” he said. “It felt different when I changed from a St. Vincent-St. Mary jersey to a Cavs jersey, from a Cavs jersey to a Heat jersey, back to a Cavs jersey and now being a Laker.
“So, it definitely feels different, and it’ll take a little bit of time getting used to.”