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Stein: Nets (and Knicks) still have their eye on Kyrie Irving

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In an ESPN podcast hosted by Stephen A. Smith, Marc Stein says the Nets (and Knicks) are still planning on going after Kyrie Irving this summer, despite his earlier pronouncement that he planned on re-signing with the Celtics come free agency.

“The Knicks and the Nets, both New York teams, have believed quietly for a long time that they’re going to have a shot at Kyrie Irving in free agency,” said Stein now with the New York Times. “It’s not like the teams interested in him heard what he said in October and said ‘oh well, we’ve got no shot, Kyrie is staying in Boston.’ These teams are going to try … They will definitely go after Kyrie this summer.”

Irving famously pledged his loyalty to Boston back in October just before the season began, telling a group of season ticket holders what he said he had already told the organization.

“I’ve shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year,” he said to wild applause.

But as the Celtics season of dreams devolved, Irving has declined to renew that pledge.

At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career,” he said last week. “I spent the last eight years trying to do what everyone else wanted me to do—managers, other personnel—and I don’t owe anybody s--t. I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of pieces. That’s what excited me at the beginning of the season.”

Since that statement, a number of things have changed. The Celtics are on a hot streak and looking like the contender fans and pundits alike thought they’d be. And speculation about him joining the Knicks rose after New York opened up more cap space with the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

“It’s a long season, as you know, and where a guy is in October is not necessarily where he is in July,” Stein told Smith, later adding, “Rule nothing out, because this league is absolutely nuts.”

Still, Stein said, there is no indication that Boston GM Danny Ainge thinks Irving wants out. If he did, Stein argued, there would be rumors that Irving is on the block. Ainge, Smith agreed, would likely move Irving at the deadline rather than lose him for nothing in the summer.

Unlike others, Stein was careful not suggest he knows what Irving or Durant are thinking adding that saying he did would be the height of arrogance.

Irving, of course, grew up in New Jersey and has spoken repeatedly about how he was a Jason Kidd and New Jersey Nets fan during their improbable runs in the early 2000’s.