Danny Ainge: Kyrie Irving Has Returned Celtics' Calls, Messages Amid Free Agency

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2019

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17: General Manager Danny Ainge and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics talk before the game against the Utah Jazz on November 17, 2018 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 2018 NBAE (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Despite a report to the contrary, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge says All-Star Kyrie Irving has been in communication with the organization as free agency approaches.

"Kyrie's been good. He's returned calls. He's returned messages. He's been excellent," Ainge told NBC Sports Boston. "Kyrie has always been respectful with me. Our one-on-one relationship has been good. He's been open and honest with me from day one. I have no issues at all with Kyrie."

Celtics on NBC Sports Boston @NBCSCeltics

Danny Ainge discusses the team's communication with Kyrie Irving and their 1-on-1 relationship https://t.co/Sj0SC3AC1B

After he declined his $21.3 million player option for 2019-20, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported Monday that Irving has "essentially ghosted" the Celtics, engaging in "little, if any, communication" in recent weeks.

That report came amid heavily speculation Irving would leave in free agency, with the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks the most likely landing spots for the New Jersey product.

Irving's free agency initially was not supposed to feature any drama, as he said back in October that he planned on re-signing with Boston:

However, as the Celtics struggled to find a rhythm early, Irving called out his teammates in January, saying, "The young guys don't know what it takes to be a championship-level team." He later apologized in March.

Before that, however, Irving stirred the pot by declining to commit to the Celtics long term and telling reporters "Ask me July 1" when asked about his summer decision back in February:

One year after coming within one game of the 2018 NBA Finals with Irving and Gordon Hayward sidelined with injuries, Boston (49-33) finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and were quickly dispatched by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the second round.

Irving, 27, has not commented on his free agency since the season ended, though he made it clear to reporters that his uncertain future did not play a role in the team's disappointing playoff exit.