Kyrie Irving


Keidel: Irving Perfect Fit For Knicks Franchise Not Committed To Winning

Team Should Be Wary Of Injury-Plagued Malcontent

Jason Keidel
July 13, 2018 - 11:51 am

In a scalp-scratching headline, it seems an NBA All-Star wants to be a New York Knick.  

Then you read who it is and it comes into karmic focus. 

Kyrie Irving wants to take his talents to the World's Most Overrated Arena. The dunking graybeard of "Uncle Drew" fame wants his comedy career to include a most comical franchise. 

It makes sense on so many levels. Irving, who was born in Australia, was raised in New Jersey, his pre-NBA career dotting the towns all around Newark -- West Orange, Elizabeth and Montclair -- before he took his filthy handle to Duke, where he parlayed his injury-addled freshman season -- in which he played just 11 games -- into the top pick in the NBA draft. 

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Not only is Irving a local product, he's also an eternal malcontent, which makes him perfectly contoured for the NBA funhouse called Madison Square Garden. Irving demanded to be booted from a club that had made three-straight NBA Finals, from being the wingman to the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. Then he watched his Celtics come within a whisker of the NBA Finals while he squatted on the end of the bench with an injury. It would seem Irving's vocational coda is straight out of Milton -- better to rule in hardwood Hades than serve in Heaven. 

Irving did hit one of the biggest shots in recent league history. His 3-point dagger in Game 7 of the NBA Finals got Cleveland its first sports title in 50 years, making him the darling of Ohio for a year. Until he demanded the team trade him. Some say he was prescient, reading LeBron's symbolic palm, which told him to get out of Dodge before James left for Hollywood and left Uncle Drew holding the bag. 

So Irving muscled a trade to Boston, a young team on a meteoric ascent with a nucleus of gifted young players and the best young coach in the sport. But as with all honeymoons in Irving's pro career, he appears to prefer a divorce over counseling, saying he won't consider an extension with the Celtics this summer.    

It's also fitting that someone who thinks Earth is flat longs for a flatlined franchise. The Knicks have been a running punchline for 20 years, have won 50 games once in the last 18 seasons, have made the playoffs four times in the last 17 years and are still waiting for their first NBA title since 1973. The Knicks already had a dalliance with someone who chose home over championship hardware -- Carmelo Anthony -- and we saw how that went. 

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Irving is a better player than Melo, is younger than Melo and perhaps could kick-start some kind of Big Apple revival.  Unlike Melo, Irving is an authentic NBA champion who's proven he can play his best in the biggest games. But in any sport, we should beware of anyone with Irving's epic talents playing for three teams in four years. The five-time All-Star is only 26 and is under contract for one more season. (He has a player option for 2019-20.)

Irving also has some troubling injury history. He missed the entire postseason during Cleveland's first of four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals when James carried the depleted Cavs to a six-game loss to Golden State. Irving also missed 22 games last season, including all of Boston's playoff games. If an athlete struggles to stay healthy in their mid-20s, how much more brittle will he become as he inches toward 30?

In other words, Kyrie Irving would be perfect for the Knicks. Someone who likes winning, but doesn't need it. Someone who likes to play, but doesn't have to. Someone who lives on a globe, but thinks he lives on flatland. Someone who likes to play for playoff teams, but would be fine with the Knicks.

Maybe if Irving tweaks a knee, Uncle Drew can take his place. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel