Kyrie Irving was an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019 and signed a four-year, $136.5 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets, who also signed Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to four-year deals.
Irving became public enemy No. 1 in Beantown after joining the Nets since he told Boston Celtics fans before the 2018-19 season that he would re-sign with the franchise.
“I’ve shared it with some of my teammates, as well as the organization and everyone else in Boston,” Irving said at a season ticket holders event in October 2018. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year.”
Something changed with Irving during the 2018-19 season. The All-Star point guard was ready to create a legacy with the Celtics at the start of the campaign, but he changed his mind in the middle of the year and had eyes on teaming up with Durant on the Nets by All-Star weekend.
Most Celtics fans don’t believe Irving was ever fully invested in staying in Boston. However, according to Heavy’s Steve Bulpett, the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year had big plans for the Celtics before joining the Nets.
Kyrie Irving Recruited Anthony Davis to Celtics
According to Bulpett, Irving tried to recruit Anthony Davis to the Celtics during the 2018-19 season. Davis requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans and Irving was telling AD to force New Orleans to send him to Boston.
“Oh, Kyrie was definitely on AD,” a Pelicans source told Bulpett. “It was looking like Anthony Davis was going to go to Boston with Kyrie there for a stretch. That’s what Kyrie wanted. Boston would have had to work it out with New Orleans, but once Anthony made his decision of where he wanted to go, the Pelicans wouldn’t have had much choice.”
The Celtics couldn’t trade for Davis during the 2018-19 season because of the “Rose Rule,” which is named after Derrick Rose. Both Irving and Davis were signed to “Rose Rule” contracts.
While teams are allowed to have two “Rose Rule” players on the roster, both stars can’t be acquired by trade. Since the Celtics traded for Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, they would have only been able to trade for Davis in the summer of 2019 once Irving signed a new contract with Boston which wasn’t a “Rose Rule” deal.
Irving wanted to play with Davis on the Celtics and run the Eastern Conference. However, according to a league executive who spoke with Bulpett, once Irving got word that Durant was interested in leaving the Golden State Warriors, he turned his attention to the two-time Finals MVP.
Irving ‘Fell More in Love’ with Durant
Irving and Durant are best friends. Once the former found out that the latter may not re-sign with the Warriors in the summer of 2019, he began to think about the two joining forces on the Nets.
“I think people assumed at first that Durant would stay with Golden State, so Kyrie was courting AD to join him in Boston,” a league exec told Bulpett. “It was looking good, but then Anthony and Kyrie had a little bit of a falling out for some reason. I think Kyrie fell more in love with Kevin Durant as opposed to Anthony Davis. Maybe he realized KD was possible.”
Davis wound up getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2019 and winning the 2020 championship with LeBron James. Meanwhile, Irving and Durant joined the Nets and the Celtics acquired Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets via a sign-and-trade deal to replace Irving.