What is next for Kyrie Irving?
Recently, I wrote an article asking why would Kyrie Irving leave the Boston Celtics for the New York Knicks? As of last week, Irving made many of my questions irrelevant. Shooting 6-21 in their last playoff game, Irving and his team exited the playoffs at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. In the post-game interview, Irving stated that he’s moving on to the next thing. Yet, what exactly is the next thing for the point guard?
Let’s talk about this last season
Irving has been speculated to join the New York Knicks all season long, something that probably didn’t sit well with top Boston brass. However, the team may be more willing to part ways with the former champion than ever before. During the season, Irving promised that he was trying to step up as a leader, however his struggles were noticeable. The Celtics were unable to break into the upper echelon in the East, something that most would consider far below expectations. Entering the playoffs, the Celtics were 5th in the East. Once the playoffs began, it appeared that all was right in Boston. With Irving leading the way, the Celtics made short work of the Indiana Pacers, completely sweeping that team.
Victory seemed on the horizon for the Celtics, but then came the “Greek Freak.” Allowing the Celtics to only take game 1 of the series, the Bucks escorted Irving out of the playoffs and possibly out of Boston. With the turbulence that Irving dealt with in Boston, it may be mutually beneficial for him to part ways with the Celtics. In fact, teammates such as Terry Rozier, who appeared on First Take to air his frustrations, may be ready for Irving to leave. Yet, the question remains: where exactly should he go?
What does he bring to the table?
Here is what you get with Kyrie Irving; Amazing handles, solid court vision, highlight ankle breakers, and a jumper that is difficult to defend. His leadership skills are still under attack, as is his championship acumen since he departed from LeBron James. Critics have been quick to point out that Irving has yet to even reach the Finals since his days in Cleveland, something that may be slightly unfair given his injury last season. Regardless, teams around the league still want him, including the Knicks.
Once optimistic New York Knicks fans have speculated that he will arrive in New York before the end of the offseason to team up with Kevin Durant. However, some fans have changed their tune, pointing at other All-Stars instead, such as Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker. Speculation suggests that is in fact Kevin Durant who wants Kyrie Irving, possibly making them a package deal. That being said the Knicks may have no choice but to negotiate with Irving. Yet it still remains, will Irving fit in New York?
Will Irving fit in the Big Apple?
The Knicks could clearly benefit in the regular season from a player of Irving’s caliber. Moreover, with Durant on the way, Irving wouldn’t necessarily have to be the team’s de facto leader or number one option. He could simply play his game without the burden of feeling like the team would fall apart without him. From an ability standpoint, there is next to no question that Irving could play as the second option to Durant in New York. However, there is a concern about personality clashes.
New York is a young team. Of the returning Knicks players, Lance Thomas is the only player over 30 years old on the Knicks roster. More than half of the team have never touched the playoffs, let alone the Finals. To be a member of this squad, Irving will have to execute a level of patience that we have yet to see from him in his career. Even in his first year with the Celtics, Irving had more seasoned players than this current Knicks squad. Thus, the front office may want to consider the possibility of Irving being involved in some locker room conflicts.
What about New York’s culture?
A move here will also require Irving to adjust to a new culture. This isn’t Cleveland or Boston; New York is a completely different animal. A lackluster regular season or a bad playoff run, both of which Irving suffered through this past season, will draw the worst criticisms from Knicks fans. Given Irving’s performance in these playoffs, some fans are considering if they still want him. Some think that Irving will not be able to meet expectations, and he hasn’t even arrived in New York yet. Upon coming to New York, Irving needs to be ready to embrace all the good and bad commentary.
It’s safe to say that Irving’s future is in his hands. He may very well end up on the Knicks next season alongside Kevin Durant. If he does, he needs to be ready to play with patience. Additionally, Irving will simultaneously have to assimilate to the tough New York basketball culture. With the playoffs still going on, Irving has more than enough time to mull over his decision.