This, of course, has been expected for several months. The Irving-Kevin Durant rumors have been swirling all season and reached a fever pitch when the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in January, freeing up two max-level salary slots.
Irving did not address his free agency after the Celtics' Game 5 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The defeat ended a tumultuous, disappointing season for the Celtics and Irving, who has taken criticism for his leadership ability.
"I'm going to be honest, I'm just trying to get back to Boston first safely," Irving told reporters. "See my family, decompress, do what human beings do."
Both Irving and Walker have local ties to the area. Irving grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, which is less than 20 miles outside New York City. Walker is from the Bronx and burst onto the national scene at Connecticut with sterling performances at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament.
Walker told reporters last summer:
"I've been hearing it for years now, the Knicks. Every time I come home, it's 'When are you coming home to the Knicks?' MSG is a special place, man. The Knicks are a special team. Of course, I've been a Knicks fan growing up, always rooted for the home team. But I really can't see myself in a Knicks jersey—only because I've been in one jersey. I really don't know."
The Knicks are all-in on adding max-level talent this summer and perhaps parlaying their young core into a third star. Anthony Davis had New York on his short list of teams he'd be willing to play for when he requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Knicks are one of three teams with a 14 percent chance to win the Zion Williamson lottery Tuesday; a Durant-Davis-Irving/Walker core could be just the correct bounce of a ping-pong ball away from happening.
None of this is new information. But now that Walker and Irving are officially done with their seasons, the Knicks' plan is on the clock.