Report: Nets, Knicks plan to pursue Irving in 2019

Kyrie Irving reportedly wants to play with Jimmy Butler.

Boston Celtics star point guard Kyrie Irving will be an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2019 if he declines his player option and likely command a max contract.

The All-Star is set to make $20.1 million in 2018-19, and with both Irving and Gordon Hayward expected to be healthy, the Celtics are primed to contend for a championship.

There have been rumblings that Irving wants to join forces with Jimmy Butler in New York possibly. Like Irving, Butler can become a free agent next summer and the forward recently declined an extension offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But Sean Deveney of Sporting News is reporting that the Irving and Butler rumors aren’t coming from the Knicks.

“A lot of the stuff you hear comes from the media and from agents, and that is going to be the case all year,” one league source with knowledge of the Knicks’ plans told Sporting News. “Kyrie Irving comes from the media. Jimmy Butler comes from the media and his agent. That’s not coming from [president] Steve Mills and [general manager] Scott Perry. They’re a lot more careful here.”

Nonetheless, the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets plan to pursue Irving should he become a free agent in 2019.

“But there are credible rumblings in circulation that the Nets plan to pursue Irving, right alongside the Knicks, should he become a free agent on July 1, 2019,” New York Times reporter Marc Stein wrote in his latest mailbag column. 

Irving’s first year with the Celtics was cut short after the superstar guard underwent season-ending knee surgery in April. Before going down, Irving was averaging 24.4 points and 5.1 assists in 60 games while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from beyond the arc.

The Knicks would have to do a lot of roster maneuvering to create two max-salary slots. Joakim Noah has two years and $38 million left on his deal, Courtney Lee has two years and $25 million left on his contract and Tim Hardaway Jr. has three years and $55 million owed to him.

The Nets, meanwhile, are prioritizing cap space for 2019, when they’ll potentially have money to sign two max players.