HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — The highlight of Kyrie Irving’s rookie year in the NBA came three games in, and on a missed attempt at playing the hero against the Indiana Pacers.
That’s when Irving knew he had gained the confidence of Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, the man he knew had to have his back if he was going to fulfill his potential in his first season in the league.
The “bald-headed man’s” confidence in him was of critical importance for the young point guard who collected the 2011-12 KIA Rookie of the Year award Tuesday morning in Cleveland.
Irving totalled 592 points and collected 117 of the 120 first place votes cast by the media members charged with selecting the league’s top rookie. Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio finished second with 170 points (one first-place vote) and Denver’s Kenneth Faried finished third with 129 points (one first-place vote). San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, New York’s Iman Shumpert, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, Detroit’s Brandon Knight, Houston’s Chandler Parsons, and New Jersey’s MarShon Brooks rounded out the top 10 in the voting.
The top pick in the 2011 Draft, Irving led all rookies in scoring (18.5 points), field goal percentage (.469) and free throw percentage (.872), was second in assists (5.4) and 3-point field goal percentage (.399).
Irving joins an impressive list that includes Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson and LeBron James as the only No. 1 overall draft picks to average at least 18.0 points and 5.0 assists. He is also one of only six rookies in league history to average at least 18.0 points, 5.0 assists, and 1.0 steal while shooting at least .450 from the field, joining Johnson, Jordan, Alvan Adams, Grant Hill and Tyreke Evans.
As good as he was during the season, Irving might have been better at the podium this morning, cracking jokes and entertaining the crowd, which included a group of kids wearing t-shirts with “Kyrie Never Stops” splashed across the front of them. Irving got in several good shots at Scott, whom he humorously compared to his father Drederick, who was also in attendance.
“They’re bald,” he said. “They wear nice suits. Nice shoes. Nice socks.”
Jokes aside, Irving won the Eddie Gottlieb trophy in an absolute landslide, cementing himself as one of the league’s top young point guards and the future of the franchise in Cleveland.