Kyrie Irving chose to take his talents to the Brooklyn Nets in NBA free agency instead of re-signing with the Boston Celtics, and C's president of basketball of operations Danny Ainge had a feeling late in the regular season that the superstar point guard ultimately would not sign an extension with the franchise.
"I think I had a pretty good idea in March or April," Ainge told reporters Wednesday after the team's introductory press conference for free-agent signings Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. "Not for sure, though. Not certain. But I was obviously thinking about moving in a different direction at that point. Thinking of the different options."
Ainge added: "It's a tough business. You got to have lots of different directions to go. You have to be ready. We had others -- if this one that we had today, we're sitting here with two guys that chose to come to us that we're very fortunate to have -- but if it hadn't happened, we would've had another plan."
New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis recently told The Athletic that players around the league knew in February that Irving and Kevin Durant would be going to the Nets this summer. So, it doens't sound like Irving's intentions were much of a secret to anyone inside the game.
Irving famously told C's season ticket holders back in October that he planned to re-sign with the team. He even made a Nike commercial about being the last player to wear No. 11 in Celtic green. However, the Celtics fell woefully short of expectations during the 2018-19 season, and Irving's lack of quality leadership contributed to the team's disappointing second-round playoff exit. When the season had ended, many fans didn't even want Irving to come back to Boston.
The Celtics pivoted quickly and effectively, though. Walker is an excellent replacement for Irving as the team's starting point guard and primary scorer. He's coming off the best season of his career in which he averaged a personal best 25.6 points and was named an All-Star starter and an all-NBA third team member.
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