How an impending duel with Giannis will shape Kyrie Irving’s free agency
Maligned and cryptic as ever, Kyrie Irving is on a collision course with destiny. Few teams faced as much manufactured drama and disappointment as his Celtics did this season. With Irving’s impending free agency looming large, how Boston performs in the postseason is said to be of critical consideration.
That Irving has eyes for New York City is no secret. To make matters worse for the Celtics, Kevin Durant may also be headed for the Big Apple. Signing with the Knicks to team up with one of his best friends is surely an attractive possibility for Irving.
What if, however, pairing with Durant isn’t just about having fun and rebuilding a broken franchise. What if it becomes a competitive necessity?
The Greek Freak Era
At present, Giannis Antetokounmpo is nothing short of a basketball supernova. Much has been written of his immense stat-lines, his incredible athletic gifts, and the fact that he’s just 24-years old. His MVP-candidacy barely scratches the surface. Giannis has arrived.
With rather apt comparisons to a young LeBron James, the Greek Freak might truly be the next great player in the NBA. And though he is still writing his own story, it certainly appears the Eastern Conference will soon belong to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s a problem for Kyrie Irving. Uncle Drew seems as determined to prove himself in a post-LeBron world as he is to undermine his young teammates’ growth. He doesn’t appear to quite know what he wants, and in the next few weeks, it may be Giannis who ultimately decides Irving’s fate.
Boston & Milwaukee
With the Celtics and the Bucks set to faceoff in the second-round of the postseason, Boston finds itself at a critical juncture. The prevailing wisdom has been that a deep playoff run would be enough to keep Irving in the Hub. In turn, the Celtics front office would either feel comfortable enough to pull the trigger on a Anthony Davis trade, or otherwise stand pat and run things back with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Either way, an early exit from the postseason is a worst-case scenario for the C’s. Made only worse, perhaps, by a loss at the hands of the Greek Freak.
It’s by no means set in stone that the Celtics will fall to the Bucks. This team has talent, depth, and a true star in Kyrie Irving. There are many universes where Boston forces a tough series or advances to the Conference Finals.
That said, there’s a not insignificant chance that Giannis and Co. beat the C’s and beat them bad. Irving would enter this summer more confused about his future and his legacy than ever.
Here comes Durant
USA TODAY Sports
Giannis Antetokounmpo stands 6’11’ with a 7’3” wingspan. He is a punishing defensive force and an unparalleled scoring machine. Save a shaky jump shot, Giannis is basketball nirvana.
Only a few players in the NBA can truly go toe-to-toe with a player like the Greek Freak. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant are, realistically, the only players in the league with the goods to keep pace.
Why, then, would Kyrie Irving turn down a chance to play alongside potential Giannis Kryptonite?
For nearly a decade, the Eastern Conference measured itself against LeBron. Entire rosters were - unsuccessfully - constructed with the sole purpose of stopping the King in the playoffs. Giannis appears poised to be the next immovable object in the East.
Durant is one of the game’s purest scorers, and has the size and length to play his own brand of exquisite defense. KD is one of the few players that breathes the same rarified air as Giannis.
Therein lies the debacle for the Celtics. We’ve just waxed a bit too poetic, because for Antetokounmpo has yet to prove his worth in the postseason. His greatness is still theoretical.
If the Greek Freak’s current trajectory and mythology hold true, though, Kyrie will soon be left pondering his own basketball mortality. Would he and the Celtics ever have enough to compete with Antetokounmpo? Pairing up with Durant will become the most logical way to survive and thrive in Giannis’ new world order.
Irving already has plenty of reason to sign with the Knicks this summer. If in the coming days the Greek Freak exposes the Celtics in a bad way, well, it could be blouses for the Kyrie Experience in Boston.