Here’s why Kyrie Irving opting in with Nets could be good news for Celtics


The split of the Irving-Durant duo might not have worked in the Celtics’ favor.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving runs up the court in the first half of Game 4 of a first round NBA basketball playoff series against the Boston Celtics. AP Photo/John Minchillo

Kyrie Irving isn’t sacrificing anything significant by choosing to play with the Nets again next season.

don’t let him sublime words on Twitter mislead you: Irving is set to make $37 million next season, which — coupled with his failure to find a viable sign-and-trade option — is probably the main reason he opted for the last one year of the deal decided.

“Ordinary people make the world run, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to sign up. See you in the fall,” Irving wrote, according to Athletic.

If only we were all as brave as the man who accepted the opportunity to play basketball for a year for $37 million.

Irving likely feels a responsibility to his friend Kevin Durant for filling one of the “maximum two” spots in the Nets roster with him. Durant left a Warriors team that had just won a championship without him for a chance to start something of his own with Irving in Brooklyn.

But stared at a dry sign-and-trade market and the somewhat murky possibility of signing a mid-level exception Deal worth around $6 million with the Lakers, Irving made the only sensible choice, signing up for a proof-it season before gaining an unrestricted free hand.

That sets Irving up for the most important season of his career – if he hopes to make big money in the future he needs to show he’s a net positive despite his defensive struggles and he needs to play a lot of games.

But this is another story. Interestingly, Irving’s decision to re-sign could be good news for an Atlantic Division opponent: the Celtics.

After all, the Celtics just swept the nets in the first round — not an easy win by 2-seed vs. 7-seed standards, but certainly the Celtics’ easiest run in the playoffs. Ben Simmons could make a difference as he defends Jayson Tatum better than anyone the Nets represent heavily, but he’s a difficult needle to thread offensively. Joe Harris can shoot and could be back, but he’s another target on defense in a multi-team.

The Nets, meanwhile, employ a superstar and two flawed stars who still have a lot to prove. That could mean they’re growing together, but it could also mean competing agendas for two players in Simmons and Irving who haven’t shown much interest in team goals throughout their careers.

If Irving and Durant had split, the results might have worked in the Celtics’ favor if one or both players ended up in the Western Conference, but it could have been disastrous. For example, imagine a Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo-Kevin Durant trio in Miami, or even a Kevin Durant-Bradley Beal duo in Washington (which might have been a less dysfunctional version of Irving/Durant in Brooklyn). There’s no guarantee either team would have been perfect, but either could have been grueling for a healthy Celtics team and the Heat in particular have shown them to be an extremely capable threat to the Celtics’ hopes of returning to the Finals.

To complicate matters further, rumors of a potential deal between Jaylen Brown and Kevin Durant would have been growing louder — gossip that apparently has Brown already reached. Irving’s departure would have added several decibels to that, and the noise was already growing.

Instead, Durant and Irving — a pairing that doesn’t seem particularly promising, especially as both players age — will look to pull a flawed Nets roster deep into the playoffs. Maybe this time it will work. After all, Durant is an absolute star and Irving is an incredible talent on his best nights.

But presumably the Celtics aren’t breaking a sweat at the thought of taking on a Nets team they just swept. The enemy you know (and recently defeated) is preferable to the one you don’t know.

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