Kyrie, the world. World, Kyrie Irving. In a way the fact that this was his first true national spotlight just about sums up the expectations of young Kyrie Irving coming into this season’s shortened campaign. He was billed as the safest pick of the draft. The guy least likely to bust out but also one with a ceiling of “very good player” according to many. The first overall pick who lost any buzz due to the lockout and moved the meter to the tune of zero scheduled nationally televised games this season. Then there’s Tristan who the picture would aptly depict as “our other pick.” The guy in the background. A guy who, when drafted, sent Cavs fanatics rushing to draft guides. He didn’t exactly get the Donovan McNabb treatment on draft night but that was only because there were no cameras broadcasting Cleveland living rooms and pubs.
While my intention was to digest the season’s first half and write a review on the Cavs as a whole looking back, Friday night changed that. Watching our two rookies last night brought my thoughts full circle back to my attitude about the Cavs season that I had the day after Christmas. That being, the season will be a failure or a success based solely on the potential displayed from Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. Kids that aren’t old enough yet to grab a brew with at Mullarkey’s but have the weight of Cavs fans everywhere to give us hope for a future sooner than any of us imagined a year ago.
So what do we know now? What we know is that Kyrie Irving’s ceiling was greatly underrated. What a lot of pundits thought he could become he really already was. He right now is an All Star caliber PG. What we saw from him last night was amazing. The pride that the Cavs fans lost in the summer of 2010 swelled back with every one of his eight three pointers, with his back door alley-oop, with his nine assists. Obviously this was a defenseless exhibition but it made people nationwide notice him. They noticed Kyrie Irving therefore they noticed the Cavs. They noticed what Cleveland has growing. He was able to draw attention to us again on the big stage just like our last #1 pick did.
Kyrie has taken expectations and shattered them just like our last #1 pick did also.Averaging 18.5 pts, 5 assts, 3.5 rebs gives him numbers that you can compare with a lot of great player’s 1st 31 games. His 47% shooting, 42% from the 3pt line gives him percentages that you can compare to great players now. So far this year he’s hit a game winner on Boston’s parquet floor in front of his dad, clinched a win vs the defending champs, and stepped to the FT line down one and hit two straight for a win. The last being, arguably, the biggest pressure situation in basketball. He’s won his teammates and our fanbase over with his unselfish style of play and his propensity to shed that when it comes to crunch time. Frankly, he won me over when we played the Hawks. We were down a million and Tracy McGrady shoved a Cav in the back throwing him out of bounds. Kyrie Irving jumped up from the bench, looked the grizzled vet in the eye, and let him know that was bush league. Many things Kyrie and Lebron did in their first 31 games are comparable. I can say with 100% certainty that Lebron would NOT have done that.
Now onto the “other pick.” Tristan has certainly had a more typical rookie year. He’s had ups. He’s had downs. He’s looked lost at times. He’s had injuries. But he’s also shown promise as well, especially lately. He also looked like he belonged on that stage last night as well. His 20 pts were certainly more a lack of defense than offensive prowess but it was fun to see him out there. He certainly doesn’t seem to be destined to have a Ben Wallace level offensive game for the duration of his career. In his young career he’s averaged right about 7 pts, 6 rebs, and just over 1 block a game and has been stellar defensively. In six games that he’s been able to play 23 minutes or more he’s averaged 12 pts, 7 rebs, and 2 blocks. He’s showing progress with his enhanced role trying to fill the energy lost with Andy’s broken wrist. Embracing it so much that a few times in last night’s game he couldn’t help but reach in or foul someone going to the basket.
It will be fascinating to see how this roster fills in around these two young players. We can debate what’s best for the Cavs going forward. Lose, win, draft here, draft there. The fact is that the most important piece of our future at the moment is the development of the two players we just drafted. The NBA just invited the most promising young players to showcase to the world and ours went 22/24 I believe with 54 pts. One of which was given a trophy to pose with, he held it low to his jersey, and he asked the photographer to make sure he got “Cleveland” in the shot.