You can now ask him about July 1.
Kyrie Irving’s two-year stint with the Celtics appears over as he bowed out with another stinker of an outing Wednesday — 6-for-21 from the field, 15 points, one assist, three turnovers in a 116-91 Milwaukee victory that eliminated Boston in five games. Irving saved his worst for last.
Boston showed no fight as the mighty Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 20 points with eight rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and two steals, returned to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since they lost in seven games to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in 2001.
Irving will become a free agent July 1, has already expressed devotion to the Knicks as a local product and more than backed away from a training-camp vow to re-sign with Boston.
In four straight losses to the Bucks, Irving shot a pitiful 25-of-83, failing to emerge as a big-time leader for what many believed was the East’s most talented team.
Asked if his mindset about re-signing with Boston had changed during a Celtics visit to the Garden on Feb.1, Irving said, “Ask me July 1.’’
An early flameout underscored the Celtics failing to jell as a title contender all season after taking the Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals a year ago. That occurred when Irving was sidelined with a knee injury and the younger Terry Rozier, a restricted free agent, starred.
That should give the Knicks a real shot at the superstar point guard remembered for one of the greatest clutch shots in NBA history that won the 2016 Finals.
As he was in the previous three games, Irving was erratic, started out 2-of-12 as the Bucks built a double-digit lead. Worse, he seemed emotionless, like a player already with one foot out the door.
On the first possession of Wednesday’s Game 5, Irving tried to force a pass to Al Horford in the post that wound up as a turnover. On the next possession, Irving fired up a long-range brick. Many of his attempts during the 2-of-12 start were forced and contested.
Irving exited with 8:30 left, rubbing his back, the club down 22, sitting near the end of the bench. At the buzzer, Irving bounced onto the court and hugged several Bucks players, including Antetokounmpo.
It would be interesting whether Celtics management is even eager to sign Irving to a max contract while letting go of Rozier, who didn’t adapt to a bench role. Certainly the Celtics will go all out for Anthony Davis in a trade, but it’s unclear how that would affect Irving.
After Game 3, Irving said, “From this point on I don’t think you’ll see another 8-for-22 or any missed layups.’’
Then Irving shot 7-for-22 in Game 4 and made an eyebrow-raising remark that he should have launched 30 attempts if not for the Bucks’ pressure, noting, “I’m that great of a shooter.’’
Indeed, Irving is a career 45.6 percent shooter in the playoffs and the Knicks hope that’s the player they would get.
It wasn’t just Irving’s fault. Boston disintegrated from the 3-point line, shooting 9-for-41 in Game 4 and 7-for-39 in Game 5. In his first season back from a horrific knee injury, Gordon Hayward looked like a role player more than an All-Star.
At a season-ticket holder event during training camp, Irving committed to staying with the Celtics long term. But those words don’t seem like a commitment anymore.
“I respect the Knicks organization,” Irving said during his Garden visit. “Obviously they are making moves to position themselves for this upcoming summer. So I wish them the best.”
The Knicks were on Irving’s wish list when he demanded a trade from Cleveland. However, David Griffin, then the Cavs GM, recently said he felt Irving would lean toward the Nets, who were made the favorites this week to land Irving at a Las Vegas sportsbook. As a child raised in West Orange, N.J., Irving grew up more of a Nets’ fan.
“I’m going to do what I feel is best for my career, and, you know, that’s just where it stands,” Irving said earlier this season.
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