Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and forward Gordon Hayward

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Stephen A. Smith: Celtics mishandling Gordon Hayward a factor in why Kyrie Irving ‘ain’t going back to Boston’

Nick Friar
June 06, 2019 - 2:23 pm

Looks like Stephen A. Smith felt the need to clear some things up about his report from Tuesday on Kyrie Irving’s future after Danny Ainge said on Wednesday he hasn’t been given indication Irving has ruled out re-signing with the Celtics.

During Thursday’s “First Take” on ESPN, Smith, again, expressed Irving is going to Brooklyn. Though this time it came with a slight caveat.

“He’s trying to convince (Kevin Durant) to come to Brooklyn with him,” Smith said. “Obviously, KD is the alpha dog here, it ain’t Kyrie. So if KD wants to stay in Golden State, he stays. If he wants to go to the Knicks, Kyrie will probably follow. But Kyrie’s trying to get him to Brooklyn.”

(Irving must love being called a follower by Smith, especially after all that chatter about leadership last season.)

There was one more bit of information Smith wanted to share:

“But in the end, Kyrie ain’t going back to Boston, not from what I’m hearing. He’s not going back to Boston.”

Now, the number of rumors that’ve surrounded Irving since the start of the 2018-19 is absurd. The biggest reason it seems impossible to figure out where he’ll go is no one seems to think Irving himself is convinced about where he’ll head. Heck, even Smith’s newest report still has Irving possibly ending up in one of two places.

But the reasoning behind Irving wanting to leave is a different story entirely.

It always felt like the young guys were the problem. (Primarily because Irving brought up the young guys a fair amount.) Smith doesn’t contest the youngers Celtics were not part of the issue with the 2018-19 team, but he added a wrinkle to the genesis of it all.

“This past year, there were things that entered the equation from a bureaucratic perspective, as far as I’m concerned: justifying Gordon Hayward’s contract,” Smith said. “Brad Stevens, that’s the man he coached at Butler in college. ‘We want to make sure we take care of him.’ And you had cats like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and others sitting there looking at him going, ‘Nice guy, we love him. When he gets healthy, we got all the faith in the world (in) him. But clearly, he’s not ready and you’re asking us to take a back-step in order to ingratiate him back into the proceedings.’ You had guys who had a problem with that and it’s my contention that had a lot to do with Boston’s struggles last season.”

The idea of Boston’s approach to Hayward in 2018-19 being a problem isn’t a new one. If Smith is right and it snowballed into the disappointing season fans got last year, then that’s about as irresponsible as it gets from the Celtics decision makers.