In a sit-down interview with Jackie MacMullan on ESPN.com, Kyrie Irving touched on a variety of subjects, primarily his optimism for the next few years, his health, beating the Golden State Warriors monolith, and those persitent rumors connecting him and Jimmy Butler to the New York Knicks.
Asked by MacMullan if he’d be disappointed if the Celtics didn’t come away with a championship in 2019, Irving got right to brass tacks: “Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes.”
And why so declarative?
“Because of who we have,” Irving told MacMullan, “and what we’re establishing here, not just for this season, but for hopefully for the next few years, something that’s pretty special.”
For his part, the five-time NBA All-Star and former NBA champ told MacMullan he’s aware of the rumors of a shared interest between him and the disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star of joining forces in New York, but that he hasn’t talked with Butler at length since they were playing for USA Basketball in 2016.
“Who wouldn’t be a part of this?” Irving told MacMullan, alluding to the Celtics’ gleaming new practice facility in Brighton. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Gordon Hayward? People keep saying, ‘Why won’t he commit to Boston?’
“Well, there are financial implications involved.”
Irving hasn’t signed an extension, and could be in for a substantial payday in the summer of 2019 if all goes well. Irving says he’s fine with the seemingly round-the-clock speculation about his future, saying, “I’m accepting it’s going to be a constant story.”
There’s more good stuff to unpack that should get Celtics fans excited about the 2018-19 season. For one, he believes he’s been the healthiest and strongest he’s been in three years, and says he has a confidence in his lower body now that was absent in the 2017-18 season, as knee issues flared up again in the spring that shut him down for the playoffs.
For another, Irving doesn’t appear to be afraid of the defending champion Warriors, who got even stronger this offseason with the surprising clearance-rack addition of DeMarcus Cousins, saying, “I’ve seen them up close. I’ve played them so many times. We’ve gone in a seven-game series [when I was in Cleveland], so I know what it takes.”