Danny Ainge had a ‘pretty good idea’ Kyrie Irving was leaving Boston well before free agency

Nick Friar
July 17, 2019 - 5:37 pm

In the long wait before NBA free agency, it appeared Kyrie Irving was as good as gone. Multiple reports indicated he was heading to Brooklyn, and others stated he was going to suit up for anyone but Boston in 2019-20.

However, in the build-up to the free-agent season, Danny Ainge never expressed the Celtics were out of the running for Irving, or that the organization wanted to move on.

“Kyrie has always been respectful with me,” Ainge said in late June. “Our 1-on-1 relationship has been good. He’s been open and honest with me from Day 1. I have no issues at all with Kyrie."

As many know by now, Irving did, in fact, head to Brooklyn to partner up with Kevin Durant — who will be sidelined in 2019-20 after undergoing Achillies surgery following his injury in this year’s NBA Finals. But prior to Irving’s move being made official, reports and rumors were all most had to go by. There was nothing concrete. The only person who claims to have known before Irving’s decision was made official is Bobby Portis, who said he and most other players around the league knew back in February Irving and Durant were set to play for the Nets.

With the Celtics showing no signs of a Plan B, it seemed like Boston’s front office had been duped. Apparently, that was not the case. Following Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter’s introductory press conference at the Auerbach Center on Wednesday, Ainge admitted he had an idea Irving had one foot out the door mid-2018-19.

“I think I had a pretty good idea in March or April,” Ainge said regarding Irving’s plans. “Not for sure though, not certain. But I was obviously thinking of moving in a different direction at that point. Thinking of the different options.”

While Irving’s future in Boston seemed unclear, all signs still pointed to Al Horford staying in Boston. Obviously, he’s now in Philadelphia.

Once Irving made his commitment to Brooklyn and the Celtics felt confident about their chances with Walker, Boston did try to bring back Horford. But, by then, it was too late.

“Once we felt like we had Kemba and we talked with Al’s agent and talked about the circumstance, I think that it was made clear where we were," Ainge said. "But I think that a decision had already been made.”