Irving, Cavs Reach Important Crossroads



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LAS VEGAS – Kyrie Irving‘s skills have never been in question.

Two injury-plagued seasons in the NBA cannot overshadow the obvious where he is concerned.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star point guard quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with at his position, and is one of the headliners of a young crop of talented floor leaders on site for USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team mini-camp. He’s done that much and more in just 110 regular season NBA games.

It’s the other stuff, the leadership role and the maturity it takes to go from hot young prospect to true leader of a playoff team, that Irving has been most focused on since you saw last saw him in action. Those traits, along with his transcendent talent at the deepest and perhaps the most crucial position in the game right now, have new Cavs coach Mike Brown smiling about the progress Irving is making.

It was Irving who organized the Cavaliers’ informal workouts and team gatherings before and during the Las Vegas Summer League. It’s Irving who has stepped into the leadership void for the Cavaliers as they make yet another transition, from Byron Scott to Brown. And it’s most definitely Irving who will have to lead the Cavaliers in the right direction at this crossroads in franchise history.

They’ve piled up three straight years of lottery picks, including two No. 1 overall picks in Irving in 2011 and Anthony Bennett last month, since LeBron James left for Miami. General manager Chris Grant has made a number of moves (adding free agents Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum this summer) to position this team to challenge for a playoff spot now instead of spending another year in lottery land. They should have more than enough of the human resources required to chase one of those final three spots in the wave pool that is the bottom half of the Eastern Conference chase.

“I don’t think [we have it], I know we have what it takes to be that team,” Irving said. “We have the pieces in place now to become that type of team. But we have to put the work in. We have to take the steps necessary to be the team we know we have the potential to be. And it starts with me and the other leaders on this team setting the right tone.”

That would explain why Irving showed up here a week earlier than anyone expected with his summer plan in hand. As much as this summer has been about getting and staying healthy and about reintroducing himself to the USA Basketball brass, which includes coach Mike Krzyzewski, Irving’s college coach at Duke, it’s also provided Irving an opportunity to continue what he started last summer during the pre-Olympics training camp he was a part of.

He’s one of 10 players — along with Indiana’s Paul George, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’  Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Utah’s Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Washington’s John Wall – making a second straight appearance here.

Krzyzewski said after practice Monday that he won’t spend his time assessing any individual player during their time here this week, and without a competition this summer, there really is no need. All of these guys are getting a chance to impress so they can come back next summer and compete with another loaded group for a spot on the team that compete in the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Cup in Spain.

But he doesn’t have to say a word about Irving. The Cavaliers’ young leader is doing all of the talking these days, about not only his future but the future of his Cavaliers.

“I’m excited, I’m really excited about these pieces,” Irving said. “It’s fun.”

It’s also absolutely imperative that he take a hands on role in shaping that future himself. All of those impressive moves in free agency don’t mean a thing if Irving isn’t ready to lead that team this season.

“From an approach standpoint, there are certain things I had to figure out for myself [the past few years],” he said. “I had a lot of growing up to do. My approach to the game and taking care of my body in the summer and doing the right things as a pro, and just learning from the older guys in this league. I’m trying to be a great player and you have to put in hard work to be a great player … I feel like this is the year it all comes together for us.”

19 Comments

  1. Baller101 says:

    I think the cavs will move Anderson Varejao, He seemed to want out last season, I can see Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao for a solid 3, a back up at the 5 and 2,

    I’d like to see some vets on this roster, John Salmons fits the bill for this young cavs team, He can spread the floor and provide a different offensive option on the wing, I’d also like to see someone along the lines of Camby sign a vets contract to cover for the almost certainly injured Bynum, maybe take a risk and give Rip a go for the back up 2?

    As far as trades go if i were the cavs management i’d go for a Blazer, I know someone mentioned Aldridge but i’d offer Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao for Nick Batum and cash or an expiring contract. That way the Blazers get 2 high energy guys for the front court and maybe a pick while the cavs deck out their front line with Bynum, Bennett and Batum (thats an intense front court for a conference as poor as the east, that starting 5 if healthy i’d say can go anywhere from seed #5 – #8

  2. speed rouser says:

    I keep hearing how Bennett is undersized. Let’s just put that notion to rest today.
    If you picked up charles barkley out of college, you find minutes for him.
    Bennett is a better shooter than charles was when he came into the nba.
    Play bennett at pf or sf. just play him.

  3. skills franklin says:

    Wondering how Andrew bynum will be on this ” new & improved ” cavaliers team earl Clark will be great coming off the bench so will jack as he plays backup point behind kyree it’ll be fun to watch and Mike brown will come on with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is a legitimate coach in this league

  4. ac says:

    If Irving stays healthy, mark my words he will be the best point guard in the league 2-3 years from now.

  5. kaylaxed says:

    Pekovik would have been the best choice cheeper and consistent beast in the post

  6. David Cooper says:

    Why is the USA Basketballl evaluating players one years early when the Cup is one years away. Are they saying that other players will not improve their talet and skills ? Are they saying these are the only players being considered ? Why not just wait because others may step up

  7. J says:

    they’ll make the playoffs for sure maybe 6 seed prob 7

  8. Unkle Daddy says:

    If I was the Cavs GM I would try and get LaMarcus Aldridge moved to Cleveland to play beside the talent they already have.

    • Neil Young says:

      Now there’s an idea

      • Rick says:

        Aldridge could really fit in well for the Cavs. He could be the go to guy in the post while Andy do the dirty work. Bennett will have to play SF bcoz he has the stroke to shoot it, and at his size, i think he’s undersized to play a lot of PF minutes. Why not ship Bynum and some other guy to Portland.

      • Van says:

        Not really. All you are doing is just adding more power forwards. They should trade some of their poward forward for a great small forward. That’s their weakness. Or just don’t do anything and keep all your bigs and try to land LBj next year and that’s a championship contender if Bynum stays healthy and plays well. I’m a Heat fan but I’m not selfish. It would be really nice if LBJ can bring Cleveland their first NBA title and I think he will.

  9. Monica Clinton says:

    Bynum remind me of LBJ years with Shaq. Why do CAVS always try to surround their very very great talent guys with washed up stars??? Why do they signed a reliable big man?

    • Forty says:

      Shaq was like 590 years old then.

      Bynum still young

    • Big G says:

      Ya know what… point out to me any reliable Center able to take them to next level, who is still available (or was at all available at reasonable cost – do not mention inflated contracts like Al Jefferson’s), and we will be talking.

      And whoever you name, substantiate how that man is better than Bynum. Oh, OK, he could be hurt. But call that a calculated gamble – those are not 16 guaranteed million/ year after all!

  10. Bubba says:

    Greg Favors? Isn’t his name Derrick Favors. I Googled “Greg Favors” and a football player came up.

  11. James Gerrard says:

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  12. Eaham says:

    Kyrie is a good PG, less injuries and a healthy big man might make cavs a tough team. I just dont see why cavs have such a messy frontcourt. Tristan, bynum, varejeo, and benette is being forced ot play sf. They eed to make some trades happen to balance things out.