Following the Cavaliers’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving provided one of his better post-game addresses in recent memory. Typical Irving interviews involve a slew of nervous ticks—face wiping, ear tugging—and are provided at a volume which can only be made out by those within a few feet. But on Sunday night, following a game-high 28-point outing that carried his team for the first two-game winning streak in quite some time, Irving was all smiles.
“(I) definitely had a lot of fun with my teammates out there,” said Irving following the game. “I feel that we had a great team meeting with all of us and coming out there, it was fun. Just being out there and competing at the highest level. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. Everybody is just putting too much pressure on themselves. We just need to go out there and just play basketball. That’s what we get paid to do and it’s a blessing to be out there.”
The meeting referenced by Irving came in the wake of Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert firing general manager Chris Grant. The team has, to this point, significantly underperformed, leading Gilbert to make a change at the top. Irving stated that the meeting between he and his teammates focused on relaxing and having fun rather than pressing and letting the pressure of losses snowball into a toxic broth of dysfunction.
“Going out there, waking up every single day, coming to the gym to put the basketball in the hoop, that’s what you dream of, especially at the highest level,” said Irving. “It’s what you dream of. Going out there for the last two games, it’s just been fun. Whether the game is tight or it gets away from you, competing should be fun. I feel like everybody is saying the same message and is going out there and playing for one another.”
For a sizable portion of the contest, Irving was flanked by shooting guard (and season-long question mark) Dion Waiters, who finished with 18 points off of the bench. Following the final buzzer, Grizzlies head coach David Joerger referred to the two guards as the “two best players on the floor.”
“[Dion and I] just being honest with one another out there,” said Irving. “We’re telling each other what we see out there and he’s looking to me for advice, I’m looking for him for advice for just different things we see out there. Earlier in the season, we probably wouldn’t have said anything to one another. It’s just continuing to get better and feeding off one another.”
Just last week, Irving and Waiters were considered the two players who could no coexist if the Cavaliers were to ever succeed—Waiters was reportedly kicked out of a practice. Today, Irving and Waiters are two high-octane, communicating players who are playing off of one another in rhythmic fashion1.
It’s amazing what a win or two can do.
(Image via David Liam Kyle/NBAE Getty Images)
“Every time I get the ball, I tell Kyrie to run behind me or go down and come off the pin down. We just have to play off one other. I think if we do that, continue to do that, we’ll be way better,” said Waiters [↩]