July 26, 2014

Kyrie Irving makes shots and a few more fans during All-Star weekend

201302162218803012050-p2He came, he saw, he left would-be defenders flailing about the floor like one of Ne-Yo’s backup dancers. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving arrived upon Houston to join the NBA’s best and showed, instantly, that he belonged in the conversation.

Irving may be unassuming. In a land where pyrotechnics and bass-thumping beats are met with strobe lights and giant video screens, Irving, a slow jam rhythm and blues fan, greets the mid-ovation crowd with a two-handed waive. While the media hordes follow him from stand to stand asking him the same question which had been lobbed to those before him, he offers dry, straight-to-the-point response — asked of his strategy for the impending three-point contest, Irving casually offered “to make shots.”

And make shots he did.

For all of the talk regarding Irving’s fatigue, leading some to question whether or not he should participate in all of the events he had scheduled during a weekend wherein the rest of the league (read: his opponents) was unwinding both physically and mentally, the 20-year-old Irving appeared to be in no hurry to squander the opportunity to play with the best the NBA had to offer. Whether he was logging all-too-many minutes in the Rising Stars competition and providing what may very well be the highlight of the weekend, or surprising the world by winning the three-point shootout despite doing most of his in-game damage while on the move, Irving showed the rest of the league’s fans what Clevelanders have been fortunate enough to have already known for some time — this kid, at his ripe young age, is already in must-watch territory.

While Eastern Conference “starter” Chris Bosh was on the laugh-inducing end of two separate nut-megging incidents at the hands of Western Conference point guards, it was Irving who stepped on to the All-Star stage mid-way through the first quarter and immediately meshed. His first All-Star statistic was a hard-fought rebound. He would have logged a quick assist after crossing up San Antonio’s Tony Parker had Miami’s LeBron James not missed a three-point opportunity. From there, Irving dazzled with an array of behind-the-back dribbles, spin moves, trap-splitting slashes and a two-handed dunk en route to a modest line of 15 points, three rebounds and four assists.

TNT commentator Reggie Miller dubbed this past weekend as Irving’s “coming out party.” His collegue Chris Webber, typically a bit more biased towards big men, listed the 6-foot-3-inch Irving among his three best players for the first half of the actual All-Star game. Certainly, the NBA League Pass aficionados and hard-core NBA fans have already seen Irving do work. But given that the Cavaliers have been featured on nary a nationally televised contest since Irving’s arrival, this weekend was — much to Cleveland’s chagrin — Irving’s arrival. Sure, we have all seen the game-winners. We’ve seen the drives. The spins. The mid-air, off-glass leather acrobatics that allows the ball to splash through the net from seemingly impossible angles. The dagger threes. They have all been front and center in our own little intimate venue — our Peabodys or Beachland ballroom — that make these sort of events ours.

After this weekend, Cleveland will officially have to share Irving’s work. There will be more commercials, more rumor and speculation, and more halftime discourse with 2 Chainz. This region will still reap the benefits. As Miller stated before the All-Star game, Irving undoubtedly gives Cavalier fans a reason to smile. The national attention and relevance will soon follow. LeBron James was a national spectacle from the day he waltzed on to the court and dropped 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals on the Sacramento Kings. Irving’s arrival took a bit more time — and knowing how Cleveland fans are, and the lessons that have been learned, this may not have necessarily been a bad thing.

There are other aspects that will allow Cleveland to keep their reverence and hagiography at bay. Unlike James, Irving is not a chiseled God-like specimen who can accomplish physical feats that were once only executed in video games. There’s also the overriding (or underlying) feeling of lovers scorned. We saw it the second that Irving used the word “disinterested” in a recent loss to the Detroit Pistons — hands were verbally thrown into the air as if to signal that we weren’t as close to committing a foul as the impending whistle would insinuate. The egg-shell walk is a tedious one, and it will be times like this past weekend that will suck us all in for more. After all, there’s something inherently exciting about watching an electrifying player do things with a basketball that had previously only been seen in And 1 mixtapes and Harlem Globetrotter highlights and then be able to call him ours.

After a bevy of pictures with friends and coaches and local rap stars and team owners, Irving sat at a table with his three-point championship trophy in front of him and declared that all of his accomplishments, all of his awards — All-Star weekend or not — would be dedicated to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The MVP of the All-Star game, seemingly the only award Irving did not win this past weekend, went to Chris Paul, a player to whom Irving continues to be compared. As expected, Irving left Houston with a bit of exhaustion — such is the case when one is forced to endure as many appearances off of the court as on.

A quick-study just 80-plus games into his NBA career, Irving handles each challenge with grace, whether it’s during the field of play or hunched over on a stool, enduring questions about his pastimes and preferences. The stages keep getting bigger, the expectations larger, the music louder and the lights brighter.But Kyrie isn’t one for strobes and club-thumping rap and trance. He prefers Springfield, Ohio’s John Legend, conveniently the same man who sang the National Anthem before the Sunday night festivities. Like 2 Chainz, he’s different.

The coming out party happened. Everyone was invited. How Clevelanders choose to conduct themselves while amidst the congregation from this point forward is up to them. Praise Irving if you wish, keep your distance if you so choose. In the meantime, Irving will just continue to do what he does best, leaving a trail of broken ankles and agape jaws in his wake.

He’ll make shots.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Roosevelt

    I love Irving’s game and I’m as hopeful as all Cavs fans that his personality will remain suited to the rebuilding in Cleveland. That said, his “making shots” strategy was not a clever line indicative of this laid-back, small town personality that we are desperate to discover and name. It was really the only way to respond to a really, really dumb question.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I admit that my wife and I were plugged into the All-Star festivities all weekend. There was a lot of gushing from the TNT/NBATV crew over Irving all weekend long… most of the guys seemed to think Kyrie has the best handle in the NBA (even over Chris Paul), which was fun to hear as a Cavs fan.

    I think that what I liked best was just more proof that at 20 years old, Kyrie is already one of the best players in the NBA and he’s only going to get better.

  • SDA

    If he works on his defense he may become unstoppable

  • Vindictive_Pat

    That’s my thought as well. Offensively, he can become a bit more consistent and maybe reduce turnovers, but there’s really nothing to add to his repertoire. Every shot you would want for a guard… he has it at 20 years of age.

    With his size, he really should be a better defender… I hope someone can help him with that.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Whoa easy now love the Kid but his handle is not better then CP3s and you saw it demonstrated late in that game. That being said Irving’s name is shooting up the board in popularity and his agent couldn’t be happier!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The “make shots” goes with the whole “Uncle Drew” thing I think. Actually I’m surprised more people don’t see the whole ad campaign thing as being very similar to that of LeBron James when he started with the Cavaliers. I guess this happens when so many feel spurned even after all of these years. And yes I’m talking to you Bruce Drennan!

  • NoVA Buckeye

    He doesn’t “make shots,” he gets #buckets.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wrong sir Uncle Drew gets buckets his nephew makes shots!

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    Both Reggie and Sir Charles noted that they think Irving has the best handle in the NBA. Hyperbole maybe, but even if he’s second in that area to CP3, that’s pretty damn good.

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    Like you said, he’s twenty. There’s no reason to think his defense won’t improve with age. If he had all the pieces put together right now, it would be somewhat terrifying.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t trust anything a man who stores Vaseline in his navel (Barkley) says! But seriously nothing wrong with being #2 at the age of 20.

  • matt underwood

    who the hell is “Ne-Yo”?

  • Harv 21

    ” … not a clever line indicative of this laid-back, small town personality that we are desperate to discover and name.”
    How dare you. I think he gets us. He really really gets us.

  • Harv 21

    Reggie Miller most assuredly did NOT go to Chris Webber College.

    [Yeah, bring it Faux Pax Payback Spirit, I hath no fear of you]

  • JK

    Don’t ask me questions you can easily google.

  • mgbode

    i honestly think Kyrie has a better handle. best in the NBA.
    he cannot touch CP3′s vision though. he needs to work on that part of his game and Paul has it mastered.