New book details Kyrie Irving’s plans to leave Celtics, join Nets



NBA

Irving and Durant first broached the subject of joining forces at Irving’s Weston home in January 2019 — a month before their viral All-Star Game conversation.

Kyrie Irving (11) and Kevin Durant react against the Boston Celtics during Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. Adam Hunger/AP

The basketball world knew something was up when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were caught talking together after the 2019 All-Star Game.

With both players set to be free agents after the 2018-19 season, the rumor mill around the two stars joining forces — with Irving breaking his promise to re-sign with the Boston Celtics — blew up.

Of course, that’s what eventually came to pass: Irving reneged on his 2018 pledge to sign long-term with the Celtics and joined Durant on the Brooklyn Nets in free agency that summer. Two years later, their team is in the hunt to compete for an NBA Finals (though Irving is currently hurt).

But a new book shows the first seeds of their future partnership were sewn before their famous All-Star Game chat.

Matt Sullivan, author of the book “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” writes that Irving and Durant first spoke about joining forces in January 2019 — a month before they met at the All-Star Game.

The two reportedly had dinner at Irving’s Weston, Massachusetts home the night before a game between Durant’s Warriors and Irving’s Celtics. During that time, the book says Irving was frustrated at his relationship with his teammates and Boston’s “misperception” of him.

“He didn’t like what his situation was,” KD later said, “and me either in Golden State. And it was just like, ‘Hey, man, let’s just see how this would work. Let’s try it out.’ And [then Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan] wanted to play with us to be that center for us that can kinda hold it down, and play for something, really — play for a team that’s going somewhere, not just keep moving around and bouncing around to leave.”

The book also reveals Irving did have misgivings about the history of racism in Boston that he never publicly expressed — until he was about to play in front of a Boston crowd in the playoffs this year for the first time since leaving for the Nets. A friend of Irving’s reportedly said after the fact that it was “a factor” in his departure.

Additionally, the star point guard reportedly battled depression after he lost his grandfather a few weeks after his pronouncement about re-signing with Boston in 2018.

Whatever his reasons, Sullivan wrote that Irving announced his decision to join the Brooklyn Nets to a hometown friend in New Jersey in late May 2019 and officially signed a four-year, $141 million contract with his new team a month later.

After an injury-plagued first season, Irving and Durant’s Nets entered the 2021 playoffs as NBA Finals favorites. They beat the Celtics in their first-round playoff series, but not without plenty of drama surround Irving: the comments about “subtle racism” before Game 3; the stomping on the Celtics logo at the end of Game 4; and a fan throwing a water bottle at Irving shortly after.

To think all that was more than two years in the making.