Knicks fans give Kyrie Irving a raucous welcome at Madison Square Garden in hopes of recruiting him

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4840/" data-ylk="slk:Kyrie Irving">Kyrie Irving</a> received a raucous welcome at Madison Square Garden from <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/new-york/" data-ylk="slk:Knicks">Knicks</a> fans who hope he joins them this summer. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Kyrie Irving received a raucous welcome at Madison Square Garden from Knicks fans who hope he joins them this summer. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York Knicks fans are filled with hope after the stunning trade of franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis for cap space on Thursday. Of course, hope is all they have with what’s left in their starting lineup.

Suddenly armed with space for two max contracts this offseason, the Knicks are angling to form a new super team, potentially with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And with Irving’s Boston Celtics visiting Madison Square Garden on Friday, the Knicks crowd made sure that he knew he was wanted.

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From the player introductions to seemingly every time the All-Star guard touched the ball, Knicks fans cheered him on, even chanting, “We want Kyrie!”

It was a rather strange sight to see a home team root for an opposing player, even if he grew up in nearby West Orange, New Jersey. Behind his 13th double-double of the season (23 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists), Irving led the Celtics to an easy 113-99 victory, pushing the Knicks closer to a chance at the No. 1 pick and Zion Williamson.

Irving was happy for the reception, although he was not thrilled to be talking about the possibility of playing for another team again. In a comment sure to rile up Knicks fans’ hopes, Irving added that “obviously coming and playing at the Mecca is always a great opportunity for me.”

As he said to ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth after the game:

“It’s nothing but a distraction at this point,” Irving said. “Like I said, I’m appreciative of the fan support I get in any arena. But of course, coming back home — obviously, what’s going on in terms of that noise and commentary, it’s just a bunch of nonsense right now. So, can’t do anything about it. I’m just accepting, I’m appreciative, but at the same time, I got a game to focus on.”

Could Irving actually leave the Celtics?

Much has been made about Irving’s future with the Celtics after the team has gone from Eastern Conference favorites to fighting for home court in the first round. Back in October, Irving said he was planning on re-signing with Boston, but now he would not commit and said to “ask me July 1” when free agency opens.

Since the Celtics own Irving’s Bird Rights, they can offer him more than any other team: $190 million over five years. Other teams, including the Knicks, will only be eligible to offer him $139 million over four years. But Irving may want out of Boston if he continues to be fed up with the younger members of his team.

The Knicks could present an interesting opportunity to come home, but even if they can land Durant and Irving, they likely wouldn’t have the depth to be a true championship contender. Anthony Davis may not want to join the Celtics, but joining the Knicks would be a step down talent-wise for him.

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