“I mean, every team was under consideration, but obviously New York held a special place for me,” Irving said after the Celtics’ 103-101 win over the Knicks on Saturday night. “Just being from (New) Jersey and, obviously, envisioning myself as a free agent and ultimately taking a meeting and playing for (Knicks head coach David Fizdale) and a great young core that they have here. Thinking about playing with (Kristaps Porzingis). That was a big thing before I made my decision just to … plan on re-signing back with Boston. But yeah of course New York was a strong consideration.”
Irving, 26, said last month that plans to re-sign with the Celtics. He has a player option for 2019-20, the final season of his five-year, $94 million contract.
“I think if you were in my position, I think it would be an easy decision,” Irving said of his decision to commit to the Celtics. “Thinking about who we have (in Boston) and the future and what we’re set up for. For me, it was where I am in age and how I envision my career going. And kind of the lineage of guys that have come before me in the Boston Celtics is something I wanted to be a part of. Obviously, my dad and my mom met in Boston, so I had a lot of history there, as well. Obviously, being from New Jersey, (there’s) history there. But Boston, there’s nothing like it.”
Irving was one of the players in the 2019 free-agent class whom the Knicks had strong interest in, per league sources. With Irving presumably off the market, New York still plans to pursue a top free agent this summer — a class that includes Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Jimmy Butler.
New York currently projects to have $31 million in room, nearly enough money to afford a max free agent.
The projected max contract next season for a player with seven to nine years of service is $32.7 million. The projected max contract for a player with 10-plus years of service is $38.15 million.
So the Knicks will need to complete at least one more transaction that reduces their 2019-20 salary commitments to sign a free agent to a max contract.