BOSTON — Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball community on Thursday by announcing to a group of season-ticket holders at the TD Garden his intention to re-sign with the Celtics this summer.
While Irving’s announcement meant nothing official (“plans to re-sign” can be malleable), it was a very public vote of confidence in the franchise just months before unrestricted free agency.
“I just have every intention of signing back,” Irving said. “Me and Danny and management have not talked about any numbers, so please do not ask me about it. That goes for anybody — we don’t want any tampering or anything like that. July first, whatever that day is, we’ll talk about contracts and stuff like that. I have every intention of signing back with Boston.”
Irving said his decision to announce was due in part to his comfort level in Boston, as well as his desire to have his number retired alongside Celtics greats.
“I think the important thing was just being happy and having an environment where I’m challenged on a physical level as well as mental,” Irving said. “I can get better as a basketball player — as a man — and grow here. I do have a dream of putting my number 11 in the rafters one day, if I’m so blessed to do that. Work my tail off. Obviously a lot of great players have come before me, but to grow my name in Boston Celtics tradition and history is something I’m glad I can do.”
Some Celtics players were caught as off-guard as the fans.
“That was a surprise to us too,” Marcus Smart said to MassLive. “I didn’t even know until I heard him say it.”
Still, Smart wasn’t shocked by the news.
“We have a good organization,” Smart said. “Everybody gets along. Kyrie is able to do Kyrie plus more — take on a lot more responsibility. So I wasn’t too surprised. For this organization, it speaks to how much this team means to him, and how this coaching staff and this organization treat their players.”
Irving said he hopes this takes the pressure of selling him on the Celtics off management and fellow players this season.
“I know I made a lot of guys comfortable,” Irving said. “Our management, coaching staff, they don’t have to worry about recruiting me the whole season and telling me how great it is to be a Celtic and be here. I came to that myself. Me asking the Celtics if they would have me back, that was the first question. I just wanted to make sure and then at that point, it was an easy decision to plan on re-signing.”
Irving said the core group of players knew.
“I hope they were happy,” Irving said. “I think that, as you can tell, we’re getting closer as a group, but we have something special here in terms of the environment we create. We all support one another and I think it’s great that we all can grow together.”
The Celtics have one of the brightest futures in the league — a collection of promising youth and current stars who could put something long-term together. Irving said the chance to build something played a major role in his decision.
“You can’t help but think about the future,” Irving said. “Having guys here that are special already and have the chance to get better. I’m looking forward to helping them with their careers, and them helping me. They’re great. They’re committed here, were drafted here for a reason, and I wanted to write in that same lineage of being with those guys and drawing from them.”