Kyrie Irving’s name was mentioned strictly as a formality Wednesday when the Boston Celtics introduced offseason additions Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that he “had a pretty good idea in March or April” that Irving intended to leave in free agency and mostly left it at that, declining to delve into the details of the reportedly contentious breakup between the two sides.
Pressed on the issue in a Thursday radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Ainge provided more insight into his experience of Irving’s departure.
Ainge believed Irving preferred Nets in spring
He told Toucher and Rich that he believed during the spring that Irving wanted “to go home” to play with the Brooklyn Nets and preferred them to the New York Knicks.
"He did express to me on a couple of occasions between March and the end of [the season] that he really wanted to go home," Ainge said. "I got the impression at that point that he wanted to go play in Brooklyn more than he wanted to play in New York."
Irving, of course, agreed to a four-year deal with the Nets to play alongside Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. Irving grew up in New Jersey where the Nets used to play and was reportedly a fan of the team as a child.
Ainge: Irving made Celtics promises on his own
Ainge said he was in regular communication with Irving during the season and believed that Irving went back and forth on his desire to leave Boston as the fortunes of the team fluctuated.
“Kyrie and I talked often,” Ainge said. “He was always respectful and open with me about what was going on in his mind and his heart. And I just had a feeling. At the same time, Kyrie, on his own merits, came out in training camp last year and announced that he was gonna resign. That wasn’t me pushing him in any way.
Ainge said he didn’t pressure Irving to stay
Ainge said that Irving never told him that he definitely intended to leave the Celtics, but as the writing was on the wall he didn’t try to sway Irving to remain in Boston.
“I’m not trying to sell him to stay,” Ainge said. “I’m trying to give him the space to make his own decision. I don’t want to beg any player to come and play. I want them to want to be here.”
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