Kyrie Irving’s not understanding how this LeBron-back to-Cleveland deal is supposed to flow.
Remember when old Roc-A-Fella records rap head and Philly’s finest MC Beanie Sigel released the song I Can Feel It In The Air, where he acknowledges that the walls were closing in on him and basically prophesized what would happen on May 25, 2006, when Sigel was shot multiple times during a robbery in Philadelphia? He was able to flee the scene and drive himself to a local hospital. This was one month after being released from prison after serving a brief stint for child support charges.
He had his gangsta grillz on 24-7 back then and his relentless South Philly nature was consistent with the great boxers from that hood. They shared a DNA of no retreat, no surrender. It’s that same DNA that resulted in Julio Cesar Chavez’s dramatic TKO of Meldrick Taylor with just two seconds to go in their 1990 classic showdown. Taylor was ahead on the cards and simply needed to survive the round to win, but he refused to dance. It cost him a bright career.
Growing up in West Orange NJ (via Australia) didn’t expose Irving to the violence that Sigel or Taylor endured in their everyday lifestyles and rugged journey to a life of (brief) fame and fortune, but being just an hour and a half up the New Jersey Turnpike has offered Irving a beneficial proximity to Philly, so he needs to use his ghetto pass and see the writing on the wall as Cleveland starts the season 1-3 and the newly anointed “Big Three” struggle to find continuity and settle into their roles.
LeBron says it’s going to be a process. Part of that process is Kyrie getting with the program because King James shouldn’t have to acquiesce to anyone on that squad. Basketball purists around the globe were interested to see how LeBron would fair playing with a ball-dominating point guard when essentially LBJ has been a point player—whether at forward or big guard—his entire NBA career.
Irving needs to be more like Sigel and see what lies ahead of him. However, he needs to be even smarter in the sense that humility will be his best weapon right now and if he wants to avoid getting clapped-up by media, coach David Blatt, LBJ and the Cleveland organization, he should offer to adjust his game to make LeBron feel comfortable and to make a legit championship run.
We are already seeing some chemistry issues. Irving was allowed to go Allen Iverson while starring on a janky Cleveland squad his first three years in the league. His 20.7 ppg career average doesn’t mean jack on a team that has won a measly 78 games since he arrived as rookie in 2011-12—a season after NBA MVP James bolted the city following a six-game Eastern Conference Semifinals loss to Boston.
Irving has proved in these first three games of the season that he can’t automatically turn into a deft ball distributor. He’s refused to immediately concede to LeBron and Kevin Love, who now have to rely on a shoot-first point guard who thinks he has Drazen Petrovic range, to make proper decisions with the rock.
Irving has never played disciplined basketball for any length of time. He had a cup of coffee with Duke, got hurt and missed the NCAA Tourney in his only season as a Blue Devil before bouncing to The League.
As a result, LeBron is unfathomably the NBA’s 16th-highest scorer at a modest 21.3 points per game and there are times when the Cavs come down the court and LBJ doesn’t even touch the rock. That’s not his game at all. He’s “The Great Facilitator; let him do what he do.
If Irving doesn’t chill out on the shots and adjust his game to fit his upgraded personnel, then he could find himself forced into a lesser role in the offense. It’s all about winning ch’ips for Cleveland now. They got King James to return home for one last run, and people rarely get a second shot at greatness in this world. Despite a messy first divorce, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Cavs Nation got that improbable re-do when LBJ made the leap of faith, did the “right” thing and became the fish that saved Ohio.
Now it’s time for the youngsters and ringless wonders –regardless of talent or fan appeal—to stop baby-balling, sit back and let LeBron turn them into the new Wu Tang Clan.
He has to be the maestro–The Rza– of this potentially sick symphony. Irving has to start embracing second and third fiddle and doing his best Isiah Lord Thomas III/Method Man impersonation by picking his spots to explode offensively, but looking to get King James going first and being willing to play off the ball when necessary. Time to expand your game young man.
He should be able to feel it in the air after that 101-82 stomping by Portland on Tuesday. Real Talk. Youngblood, you can’t take a team high 17 shots and only hit 3 of them for nine points and go 1-of-5 on treys while LBJ has just 11 points and leads the team in assists. Where’s Irving’s contributions as a floor general? He’s got to lock Damian Lillard down or something.
You can’t flop offensively and allow the opposing PG to slice ya' squad up for a game-high 27 numbers.
NBA analyst Tim Legler says LeBron sent a message to his team by only taking four second-half shots.
“He’s trying to let these guys see that if you want to play this way, these are going to be the (negative) results especially when you play a good team like Portland on the road.”
LeBron also made some post-game statements about his team needing to “break bad habits," to be championship caliber. That statement has "Kyrie" written all over it, as Legler explains.
“When LeBron is referring to “bad habits” on his team, there are guys that (the Cavs) are counting on in a big way that haven’t played winning basketball at the NBA levels and to do that, you have to be able to sacrifice a lot of your desires, needs and wants for the good of the team… These players are younger and haven’t done anything yet in the NBA in terms of winning… and the habits are bad defensively and offensively and we saw some of that really rear itself last night against Portland.”
Irving has got to understand that this isn’t college and meaningless experiences during his first few years in the league have nothing to do with his privileged future. Kyrie, you just signed a 5-year $90 million mega-contract and have a chance to play with a champion-maker.
Irving can never be "The Man" on a team with LeBron, but the knowledge and growth that Irving—a guy who hasn’t led his team to more than 33 wins in a season —can acquire from such a talent, will benefit him in the perfect way if he can grip his ego, pump his brakes a bit and understand his reality.