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Spencer Dinwiddie: Kyrie Irving told me in December, ‘New York might be fun next year’

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Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

In a podcast with The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Spencer Dinwiddie says his first indication that Kyrie Irving might be in play came last December when in a conversation Irving told him, “New York is gonna be fun this time next year.”

Dinwiddie, who has been credited with helping the Nets recruit Irving, said the two friends “loosely” talked about free agency in December.

“The first time he reached out was maybe like December in terms of just loosely talking about it,” he told Charania. “He was obviously still super focused on his season and everything. But you could tell from his conversation that it was on his mind and obviously free agency was coming up and that’s kinda what it was. Just asking a friend about his current situation what he thought.”

Then, says Dinwiddie, Irving went deeper, telling him “New York might be fun next year,” repeating the line for emphasis, “New York might be fun next year.”

Initially, Dinwiddie wasn’t quite sure at the time what Irving was getting at. Was it a recruiting pitch on behalf of the Knicks, since Dinwiddie hadn’t yet signed his extension? Was he suggesting he was open to both teams?

“At the time, I was thinking, ‘you all going to the Knicks. Are you and the Monster going to the Knicks? ‘ That’s when I was first tipped off to the whole thing,” said Dinwiddie, referring to the possibility that Irving might be amenable to a pitch from Brooklyn as well as the Knicks,

Dinwiddie said he interpreted Irving’s comments that “that it was pretty much a New York time thing, one or the other, at least in my mind. That’s what I took from it at the time ... when he made that comment.”

The Nets guard, who’s now likely to back up the player he recruited, said the two met in high school when St. Patrick’s High School, with Irving, played his Taft High School team in L.A. “They steamrolled us!” Irving recalled.

Their professional relationship, he said, began during the Skills Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend in 2018. “That’s where this whole thing started.”

Dinwiddie somewhat dismissed the importance of their experience at a Harvard University seminar in August of last year, saying he didn’t even know Irving would be there until the two showed up in Cambridge.

“It was never, ‘oh, I’m going to go to this Harvard class because he’s there.’” he explained. “We would talk. We was just cool.”

As time went on, the two’s friendship grew and Irving told him, among other things, that went he made his comments about re-signing to a Celtics season ticket holder event in October that “He just didn’t make it up out of thin air or mess with people. He said, at the time, I truly meant that. The thing about it is that everyone has the right to change their mind.”

And ultimately, starting in at least early December, Irving had started to change his.

“Okay, when he made that comment (about New York), obviously by that point, things had changed,” Dinwiddie told Charania, adding, “Something happened.”

Asked when things changed from Knicks to Nets for the six-time All-Star, Irving seemed to say that the Nets, because of his childhood as a Jason Kidd fan, held much more sway than believed.

“Kyrie very much identifies as a New Jersey kid,” he told Charania. “This is not something fabricated for the purpose of the story. He was saying things like, “I’m really from New Jersey. ‘ With all these comments, [I thought] we got a shot. This isn’t like the Knicks or nothing.”

And he notes, while many saw he and Durant as a package deal, that as time went on, Kyrie was “firm in his decision. He was coming, KD or not.”

The “team-up,” Dinwiddie added, “was the elephant in the room” and wasn’t settled as early as Irving was alone.

Dinwiddie also noted that there were a number of points along the way that his confidence grew, that his decision to sign a three-year extension with the Nets, announced on December 13, “might have been a piece to the puzzle,” but the one constant was Irving’s roots in the Garden State.

“Like I said. Kyrie is a Jersey dude to the core and this meant a lot to him,” he said. “It’s not something I can take 100 percent credit for, ‘like I’m the one who brought Kyrie...’ That would be wrong on my part because this was something that clearly was in his heart.”

On the other hand, Dinwiddie believes he played a role. “In terms of being one of those dominoes that helped everything fall into place, I would say for sure.”

Dinwiddie also liked the idea that “no one knew we were cool.”

Certainly, there was recruiting going on, but it wasn’t heavy-handed, he says. “Why wouldn’t talk about what Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson are capable of? The possible fit of what could possibly be if he would choose us.” Dinwiddie admitted to Charania that he did talk with Irving about all of that. “A ton.”

He spoke as well about how the Nets had a “fun system” to play in, that Marks had instituted a “family perspective” and a “holistic approach” in that players’ moms get flowers on important dates, that tickets get left for family and friends, that there are days off for family time, or to take care of your body.

Dinwiddie summed his pitch, “Bro, it’s perfect for you!”

He also hinted that the Nets wide open system in which D’Angelo Russell had the third most possessions among point guards was better suited than the Celtics. (Dinwiddie said that Irving never “bad mouthed’ his teammates in their conversations, but did note, “There has to be one or two voices of direction, there can’t be 10 different voices of direction. You’re never on the same page.”

Then after the season ended, Dinwiddie says things picked up dramatically, mostly as a “vibe.”

“That’s when it really became real for me,” he told Charania. “That’s when it became more so ‘this is a thought’ to ‘alright, this shit’s gonna happen.’

“It was just a vibe man. It was a vibe. It wasn’t just a number of meetings or facetimes or anything like that. It wasn’t like the specific number because we just wanted to talk on the phone. It was okay, The vibe was ‘Okay, I think this is possible.’”

Dinwiddie says he couldn’t put a date on when Irving made the commitment in his own mind, but said while Durant and DeAndre Jordan was more “11th hour,” the vibe was different with Irving.

By June, he said, “it was like 99 percent.”

Throughout, Dinwiddie said Irving “truly wanted to understand how Brooklyn worked the way it looked” ... unlike, perhaps the Celtics.

“He didn’t want it to be something where it looked like ‘Okay, people bought it, people were playing hard, people are cool with doing this, the hierarchy is what it is, playing style is what it is,’ but truthfully, the underbelly is everybody is fighting all the time and the shit’s about to blow up. There’s an oil/water mixture.

“And I was telling him, genuinely speaking, we’re pretty cool, bro. We don’t really have too much beef.”

Case closed.

Dinwiddie spokes as well as the future and how once KD joins Kyrie, the Nets have to start thinking championship.

“If we want a chance at being a team that can go to three Finals in three years when KD comes back, then we’re going to have to start that process now,” he told Charania. “That starts right now.”

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In an interview after the Shams Charania podcast was posted, Danny Ainge, the Celtics GM, admitted that as early as March Irving had told him of his interest in returning home ... and that he sensed Irving was more interested in Brooklyn than New York or Boston.