The Knicks and Nets can both afford to chase the biggest free-agent stars this summer, and both are expected to be in the race for Kyrie Irving, whose stay in Boston looks over more and more by the day.
Though the Lakers’ impending coaching decision could certainly make Los Angeles a landing spot, Irving is a New Jersey product who grew up rooting for the Nets. New York is a natural fit. But which borough will he choose?
It depends on whom you ask.
Caesars installed the Nets as the favorites to land Irving (+250), followed by the Knicks (+300) and Celtics (+350). ESPN analyst Jalen Rose predicted that Irving is going to bolt Boston, and added he would be better suited in Manhattan than in Brooklyn.
“You are seeing the end of Kyrie in Boston,” Rose said Tuesday on ESPN’s “Get Up,” after Irving shot 7-of-22 in the Celtics’ 113-101 loss to the Bucks in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, falling into a 3-1 hole. “And the thing that I’m seeing is, his next situation has to be a blank canvas. It can’t be the Nets. And what I mean by that is a team that made the playoffs that has an identity in its backcourt already.
“They have to be a squad like the Knicks, where they can actually build around the fact that he’s going to be a volume-usage player. He likes to dribble the ball a lot, he likes to shoot the basketball a lot, and that’s who he has become. Unfortunately for the Celtics, that’s not how they’re built. This is a team that made it to the conference finals last year without him. So now when they insert you into the lineup, you’ve got to make everybody better, make everybody comfortable.
“When you go 7-for-22, you can’t turn around and go 8-for-22. You’ve got to get off the ball. And then when you go to the press conference and say. ‘I should’ve [taken] 30 shots,’ what do you think the other 14 guys in the car going home are saying? ‘We can’t wait ’til this guy gets out of here. We’ll help him pack his bags.’ ”
Irving grew up in West Orange watching the Jason Kidd-led Nets at the Meadowlands. David Griffin — the Cavaliers general manager while Irving was in Cleveland — said on NBA TV in February that the Nets are “the fit that’s better for him in terms of his mindset,” adding, “I think he likes what they’ve done there, culturally.”
Of course, the Lakers could throw a wrench in all this and lure Irving all the way to the West Coast, and into a reunion with LeBron James.
Irving reached out to King James earlier this season with his infamous apology to him for having been the difficult young upstart during their time together in Cleveland, one that some have viewed as Irving using James as prop for his critique of Boston’s young players.
Now, with Irving and the Celtics struggling against the top-seeded Bucks, Yahoo and ESPN reported the Lakers are close to hiring Tyronn Lue, who coached both James and Irving to a stunning championship upset of Golden State in 2016.
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