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Ainge offers defense of Kyrie

  • Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison (2) during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Indianapolis, Sunday, April 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)



New York Daily News
Thursday, July 18, 2019

Kyrie Irving gave Danny Ainge the impression that he preferred the Brooklyn Nets over the New York Knicks as far back as March.

The Boston Celtics general manager revealed that timeline to The Sports Hub radio show in Boston on Thursday, about two weeks after Irving officially signed a four-year, $141 million deal with Brooklyn.

“He did express to me on a couple of occasions between March and the end of (the year) that he really wanted to go home,” Ainge said. “I got the impression at that point that he wanted to play in Brooklyn more than he wanted to play in New York.”

The comment sent out alarms in Boston because it meant Irving had his foot out the door long before the Celtics were bounced from the playoffs. So Ainge called the radio station back to clarify.

“I did not say he said he was gone in March,” Ainge said. “He said the possibility of being gone was there, not that he was going to leave. There was still a strong possibility of him staying in Boston.”

“I asked him point blank in the conversations I had with him: ‘Would you consider coming back to Boston?’ And he was always yes; he was always in that frame of mind. I don’t think he was out the door for sure by then. I think he was contemplating all his options. But I do think he preferred Brooklyn over New York in that moment, to me.”

Regardless of when Irving decided to leave, the point guard ultimately ditched Boston for Brooklyn. The decision created a domino effect that left the Nets as the big winners of free agency, the Knicks as the losers and the Celtics chasing Kemba Walker.

The Knicks have declined to answer any questions from media, so it’s difficult to know what the team knew about free agency, and when they knew it. The Kristaps Porzingis trade became official on Feb. 1, and the Knicks went 1-13 in March — the month when Irving told Ainge about his borough preference.

Still, Irving arrives with some baggage after an ugly season in Boston. He received much of the blame for the team’s poor chemistry, but Ainge came to his defense on Thursday.

“We had chemistry issues during the season, and I did say that it was not all of Kyrie, that it was a lot of people who responsible for the chemistry issues,” Ainge said. “I don’t like the fact that it’s all blame it on him. I’d like everybody to take responsibility for that. So I feel like the Kyrie-bashing is unfair.”