Stephen A.: Kyrie Irving Planning to Commit to Nets over Knicks in Free Agency

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IIJune 5, 2019

BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Stephen A. Smith has spoken. 

"Over the last several hours, I have learned that Kyrie Irving has given every indication to the Brooklyn Nets that that is where he wants to go," Smith proclaimed on ESPN's First Take on Tuesday. "Not the New York Knicks."

First Take @FirstTake

Things @stephenasmith is hearing: -Kyrie is planning on committing to the Nets -If the Warriors win the Finals, KD will leave https://t.co/jcurgMsPMS

Smith then clarified that he has not spoken to Irving or Kevin Durant, who he predicted is not interested in joining the Nets. 

Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported Sunday that Irving and the Nets have mutual interest: 

"NBA Finalists and MVP candidates Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are the Great White Sharks in the free-agency waters. But Irving is another big fish, with sources saying he and Brooklyn hold mutual interest. He grew up a Nets fan in West Orange, N.J.

"Despite Irving and Durant being viewed as a package deal bound for the Knicks, the Nets could also afford both by dealing Allen Crabbe and renouncing [D'Angelo] Russell. But sources told The Post that even if the Nets don’t get Durant, they would still sign Irving and willingly pair him with Russell."

Irving, who has played for the Boston Celtics since 2017, is expected to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.  

The 27-year-old All-Star had a contentious two seasons in Boston, so it's unsurprising that he would like a fresh start somewhere else—Brooklyn or otherwise. 

On April 5, 2018, Irving was declared out for the remainder of the season due to surgery on his left knee. He last played on March 11, and the Celtics exceeded all expectations without him. Boston lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving's former team. 

Because of their impressive playoff run, the Celtics' expectations skyrocketed entering 2018-19 as they got back Irving and Gordon Hayward, who missed all but five minutes of the 2017-18 season after a gruesome leg injury in the opening game. While the Celtics made it to the conference semifinals, it was a tumultuous run with Irving often at the center of the volatility. 

Perhaps the most controversial moment came in January when Irving publicly called out his younger teammates after a loss to the Orlando Magic, but you can decide for yourself after watching NBC Sports Boston's full timeline of the 2018-19 Celtics' drama. 

Despite the off-court charades, Irving's services are highly touted.

For months, reports have heavily linked Irving to the Knicks. On May 9, SNY's Ian Begley reported that the Knicks would get "strong consideration" from the 2016 NBA champion. However, the Nets may be more desirable destination given they made the postseason this season while the Knicks were an NBA-worst 17-65. 

When speaking to Fox Sports 1's Colin Cowherd, Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher reported the Los Angeles Lakers are co-front-runners with the Nets to land Irving—a move that would reunite him with LeBron James.