The Garden crowd greeted Irving with a loud ovation during visiting player introductions for the Celtics’ game Friday against the New York Knicks.
Irving also heard cheers from the crowd each time he touched the ball early in the first quarter. New York will likely pursue Irving in free agency this summer.
The Knicks’ trade of Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday leaves them with the chance to have roughly $70 million in cap space – enough for two max free agents this summer.
Irving, 26, strongly implied on Friday that he isn’t fully committed to re-signing with the Celtics.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career, and that’s just where it stands. That’s just where it stands,” Irving said. “And my focus this season is winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. Obviously, we had goals coming into the season, and the primary goal is to win a championship. So that’s where my focus is.”
Prior to the season, Irving said that he planned on re-signing with Boston if the franchise wanted to retain him. But he didn’t repeat that commitment when answering questions about his future on Friday.
When asked if his mindset regarding his decision to re-sign with the Celtics had shifted, Irving said, “Ask me July 1.”
He later added that the Celtics still remain “at the head of the race” regarding free agency.
“I love Kyrie,” Celtics GM and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Friday when asked about the nature of Irving’s recent comments. “He’s a terrific player, and he’s a fun kid.”
Irving was also asked on Friday about the Knicks’ decision to trade Porzingis.
“I respect the Knicks organization,” Irving said. “Obviously they are making moves to position themselves for this upcoming summer. So I wish them the best.”
Some close to Durant see New York as a possible landing spot for the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP if he chooses to leave the Golden State Warriors, according to league sources.
Knicks president Steve Mills said Thursday that the club would take a conservative approach with its cap space.
“We’re going to be prudent in how we use that room because we’re still consistent in building this team through the draft and with young players,” Mills said. “And when there is an opportunity to add a free agent, that certainly is one of the tools that we have in our toolbox.”