This is all worth ignoring.
Irving, who’s often inscrutable in interviews, was actually clear last month about why he won’t consider signing an extension with the Celtics right now. "Contractually and financially, it just wouldn't make any sense,” he told reporters at the old team facility in Waltham.
Irving is absolutely right. Since the Celtics are over the cap, Irving can only sign for 120 percent of what he's making now, which is just over $20 million. He'd be limited to a four-year deal starting at roughly $24 million, with annual eight percent raises pushing the total package to a shade over $108 million, as noted by Brian Robb at Boston Sports Journal.
If he waits until free agency next year, however, and then maxes out with the Celtics (the only team that can offer him a 5-year deal), he'd be in line to make $190 million. Or, in other words, roughly $80 more million than this summer.
Well, that logical response from Irving was grossly misquoted by several media outlets that ran headlines claiming Irving doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal with the Celtics –– period. They all left out the part about how Irving was referring specifically to this summer.
There’s nothing Irving can do about being misquoted. But he’s feeding into the speculation as well. In an interview with the New York Times, Irving refused to answer whether he imagines himself in Boston for the long haul.
"Well, I mean I know that question is going to come up a lot over the next year, just based upon where my deal is," Irving said to reporter Sopan Deb. "And, you know, that time will arise and when it does, I think I'll have a better, clear, concise answer for a lot of people that are going to ask. Yeah, I just have to take it as being present with the Boston Celtics. You know, and just going into this year with the mindset of trying to win a championship.”
Irving’s noncommittal response about staying in Boston gives fuel to the rumor mill. This enables unnamed NBA execs to start whispering to scoop-hungry Insiders about potential Irving landing spots. ESPN reported recently that several league executives “expect Irving to give the Knicks consideration next summer if he tests free agency.”
Irving, who spoke at-length in that NYT interview about his business desires, almost certainly knows it’s beneficial for his name to be in headlines for literally the next 12 months. The narrative about his lingering knee injury, which still bothers him three years after it had occurred, has suddenly taken a backseat.
As Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have exhibited through emojis and subtweets, there’s value in perpetuating the uncertainty. Tom Brady mentions to Oprah the end of his career is coming “sooner rather than later,” and suddenly, we’re all watching his boring interview about the TB12 Method and meditation.
The same applies for Irving. He dangles some doubt about his Celtics future with the NYT, and now the NBA world is reading his interview about “Uncle Drew” and post-career vision.
Irving is playing us. We’re responding like puppets.