April 24, 2014

Irving’s Shot Doesn’t Fall in Cavs Debut

After his final shot attempt caught the back of the iron rim and intentional fouls were rendered moot by the point differential, Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving simultaneously fought the glow of the arena backboards as well as the foghorn of a buzzer which would signal the end of his first contest within the National Basketball Association.

An “okay” debut, if judged solely by Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott, Irving – the first first-round point guard to start for the Cavs in his NBA debut since Terrell Brandon did so 20 years earlier – recorded seven assists and one steal as compared to one turnover. Scoring, however, would not be the first-overall selection’s forte on this evening, converting only two of his 12 shot attempts; a floater off of the glass as an icebreaker early in the contest and a desperation three-point field goal in the waning seconds as his team looked to mend the gap between they and their opponents.

When the contest came to an end, Irving found the waiting arms of the man whom he displaced as a starting point guard, Ramon Sessions.  The fourth-year player wasted zero time in consoling his teammate who had not exactly been used to being on the losing side of the ledger at any point prior to stepping foot in Cleveland, ensuring him that his shots will fall eventually while casually reminding him to not just dash into the locker room before the dust settled.

Irving stood by his locker, post-game, looking every bit of a 19-year old – a modest collared shirt, latex wristbands, nervous ticks and an impossible hairline. He would speak calm and collected and cliched, almost as if he was an early subscriber and vigilant reader of The NBA Way; mid-way through fielding a litany of questions from the surrounding media horde, Irving would get to a point where he repeatedly tugged on his left ear as if he were a swimmer suffering from some misplaced water. But the words that poured out spoke of a kid who was disappointed in his debut, both as a person and as a team, and knows he has to get better – it’s just tough in this instance when “the whole world is watching.”

In what could be a lasting narrative on nights where Irving doesn’t instantly remind the fickle of Christopher Emmanuel Paul, the decision to place the veteran Sessions with the second group – where he led the team in scoring with 18 points on 58.3 eFG – coupled with a Cavalier loss may raise questions surrounding the rookies readiness and the coach’s decision-making. It is also at these times where we have to remind ourselves that Paul’s debut provided the waiting basketball world with 13 points (only three field goals converted), four assists and four turnovers in seven more game minutes than were provided to Irving.

Those familiar with Byron Scott’s wish list when it comes to a successfully played basketball game, his team got to the free throw line early and often (28 attempts overall) and took care of the basketball, turning it over seven times while amassing just as many steals. Where Irving will have to focus his efforts this season, wherein we can work under the assumption that the player didn’t forget how to score along his plane ride from Durham to Cleveland, is in his defense at the next level. The Cavaliers, providing chilly reminders of last season, were frequently dismantled via the high pick-and-roll, allowing Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon to dish out 11 assists, eight of which were converted at the rim, another less than 10 feet from it.

Surely, the team’s first-overall selection was not alone on this night when it came to finding more iron than net; Antawn Jamison and Omri Casspi combined to go 6-for-24. Also, Irving’s teammates Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson will have to do better defensively to ensure that the slashing opposition has to earn his points in these rolling situation. But just as the spotlight is shining brightly on the cornerstone of the Wine and Gold future, the play starts at the top of the key, a place where Irving will have to improve defensively if he plans on planting his flag as one of the league’s next great point guards.

Thankfully, for Irving and for Cavalier fans, the team’s rookie point guard has a solid support system in his father, coach Scott and Sessions – all of whom appear dedicated to get him on the quantitatively right track sooner than later.  Just as Sessions told him, his shots will fall sooner than later.  For Irving, who was steadfast in his “on to the next game” closer-mentality approach, let’s hope “sooner” is Wednesday in Detroit.

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

  • Harv 21

    Pleasantly surprised by two things:

    - Tristan Thompson aggressively making moves with the ball on offense. Much more promising than I expected. Expecting something closer to Andy’s offense circa 2005 (i.e., about zero). Athletically and hustle-wise, as advertised.

    - Alonzo Gee playing explosively and with some skill. Who knew.

    And there’s Ryan Hollins. I. have. no. words.

  • Billy Thomas

    Ya Hollins is a Clown.

    I’m glad the Cavs made no moves let them tank this season again for another top pick. The new draft picks look like they are probably solid picks.

    I don’t agree with the starting lineup also, that will change quite a bit this year I’m sure.

  • Tyler

    Really glad to see sessions bringing kyrie along and showing him the right way to do things. Totally unexpected, but appreciated nonetheless…and with the newfound good attitude that he’s been showing so far, he might have finally found a team he can stick with.

  • Joe

    Where was the D we heard so much about? Instead, Toronto blocked so many of our shots…it got crazy! Playing Hollins (missed two point blank dunks) over Samuels?

    Kyrie had 1st game nerves & still had 7 dimes & 1 late turnover. ***The worst was hearing Coach Scott after the game, casually telling everyone that “they just played FLAT”??!! In front of a sold out Q for the season opener? Really? Flat…well done Coach! Weak!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    Box score says the Raptors shot about 52% from the floor… for most of the game, it looked like they simply couldn’t miss. Which was the exact opposite for the Cavaliers. The Raptors 3-point percentage was better than the Cavaliers’ overall percentage. It was painful to watch at times.

  • Porkchop xpress

    I’m with Harv on being pleasantly surprised by T2. I was scared to death by his free throw % (49%) but he has at least a nice fluid form, which means there is at least a chance that its a correctable problem. I’m not even making a first judgement on Irving until Feb.
    I wish Sessions was old enough to realize that his calling card in the NBA is as an energy guy 20 minutes a night off the bench. I can’t blame him because every young man wants a chance to run his own show. I think packaging him and Andy could net some really good talent and picks, I know its stupid to talk trades on day 2 of the season but I can’t help it.

  • christopher

    Count me in on the pleasantly surprised by Tristan’s night.

    His defining moment for me was the play where he caught the ball low in the post but on the edge with his back to the basket. He made a step around move and floated the ball above the defender frontside for the 2.

    For one, JJ will never be able to make that move and secondly it was very nice to see Tristan put touch on the ball after being hyped as a dunker only.

    PS — Omri Casspi has the UGLIEST shoulder heave shot I have ever seen.

  • Steve

    Jamison deserves a lot more blame, and not to be lumped in with Casspi. Casspi realized his shot wasn’t on, Jamison kept chucking. Also, as usual, Jamison played some shoddy defense. The guy is quickly becoming a stiff, and needs to be dumped before a GM on a team that thinks they can contend realizes it.

  • http://www.clevelandsportstorture.com CleSportsTorture Doug

    Reports have TT being the hard-working version of JJ. Loved seeing the hustle and scrapping for boards. Irving just looked extremely tentative, kind of like a 19-yr-old playing his third actual game against different colored jerseys. Hope he gets a long leash w/ the fans.

  • TSR3000

    TT looks like a beast out there. The best part is he is totally raw. He might end up being a stud with some good coaching.

    Agree with above about Jamison. The guy is dead weight. We need to move him if anyone will take him.

    Irving will be fine. If he can shoot the ball, he will be a very scary match up.

  • Shamrock

    Did they say why Irving started? I figure because of the home debut but he should come off the bench and be allowed to learn at least initially. Best thing that can happen this season is to stay healthy while the young guys learn the pro game as the losses add up. Another top pick and a couple free agents and the Cavaliers will return to relevance.

  • crowsfoot

    The defense was pitiful, the shooting percentage was pitiful, and the forced, constant bombardment on the fans’ senses from the the scoreboard was pitiful. On a very disappointing opening night, the lowly Raptors systematically took apart the over-matched Cavs.