In the months leading into the offseason, there was a growing assumption that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was leaving the Boston Celtics after two seasons. All of that chatter came to fruition at the start of the free agency period as he elected to join forces with All-Star forward Kevin Durant with the Brooklyn Nets. In the wake of all that, future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett has voiced that he was surprised to see Irving move on from Boston.
Kyrie Irving’s decision to leave the Celtics
Before heading into the 2018-19 season, Irving had made the public announcement that he was interested in re-signing with the Celtics. However, things progressively shifted in the other direction as the season moved along.
There was talk concerning issues in the locker room, while the team’s struggles on the court contributed more significantly to that perception around the situation. Irving also became more noncommital to the franchise publicly as changed his tone to hold off on that discussion until the offseason.
All of that led to building notion that he had already checked out mentally from the team beyond last season. Once the free agency period came around, Irving made the expected choice to sign a max contract with the Nets to join forces with Durant. In the time that has passed, many have weighed on the situation, which includes Garnett giving his two cents.
Kevin Garnett’s reaction to the move by Kyrie Irving
Since the move, there has been a healthy level of disdain tossed in Irving’s direction, more so for how handled the situation than the decision to sign elsewhere.
There have been many to weigh in on the matter over the last few months. However, Garnett’s perspective is one that rings the loudest at the moment after he voiced to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that Irving didn’t have the mental fortitude to play in Boston.
“No,” he said flatly, before implying that Irving, the Nets point guard, didn’t have the mental makeup for Beantown.
“Boston’s a tough town, dawg. You have to have some major cojones to be there,” Garnett said. “You got to want that. The people want it for you. That’s why Paul (Pierce) is perfect for it. Paul wants the shot every time. Like, ‘You’re 0-for-14.’ And he’s like, ‘I know, but they WANT it.’”
Garnett’s comments are not necessarily a shot at Irving, but more so pointing out in his mind that the All-Star point guard wasn’t the type of player that would stay long-term with the franchise. Boston is well-known to be a difficult place to play in, given the high levels of expectations that are there every night due to the franchise’s overall success.
It was a blunt assessment of Irving, but one that has been expressed by more than just Garnett. Ultimately, the 27-year-old made a decision that he believed was best for this next chapter of his career.
Nets and Celtics’ future after Kyrie Irving’s decision
In the months that have followed Irving’s decision, the Celtics and Nets have had some notable significant impact from the move.
The Celtics remained on par with them finding his replacement in free agency with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who as fit in quite well as the team’s top-scoring option. Walker has been the driving force offensively behind a team-best 21.6 points while their young talent such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have each continued to take strides forward on the court while lifting Boston to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have shifted the direction of the franchise a bit now that Irving and Durant will be leading the charge. The team has effectively moved on from rising star guard D’Angelo Russell, with the _-time All-Star now taking over that spot. A shoulder injury has hampered Irving over the last couple of weeks, but he has excelled when on the court averaging 28.5 points and 7.2 assists in 11 games played.
However, the focus around the franchise is shifted more towards next season when Durant is expected to be back on the court. Nonetheless, Irving’s move has set the course for both franchises moving forward.