There isn’t one word I could use to adequately describe the vibe I felt floating around inside Cleveland Clinic Courts on Tuesday. If I was forced to choose one however, while ensconced in a headlock, I’d pick from a list that included the following: refreshing, surreal, proud, exciting, youthful, celebratory, hopeful and cool. Any thoughts or feelings along the lines of defiance, revenge, or redemption, in the event you were wondering, wouldn’t be applicable. It was a positive day of forward progress to be sure, for an organization with no reason now to look back.
In accepting his award, Kyrie’s comments were gracious, introspective, and funny. He talked about that game in Indiana, his third ever as an NBA player, when he missed his first game winning shot attempt as a professional basketball player. The decision that Byron Scott made that night, to put the ball in his nineteen year-old rookie’s hands, was pivotal for his development this season he said. On that last possession against the Pacers, Byron called a high pick and roll for Irving, and Kyrie said he was surprised by the call initially. The confidence Scott showed in him at that moment though, would go on to give Irving confidence moving forward. He said it was that night, in fact, even as his lay-up rimmed out, when he first knew for certain he could compete on this level with anybody. As the season wore on, he’d do specifically that.
After missing that game winning shot, Byron Scott would go back to him again, and again, and again from there. He’d hit monster shots against the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, as well as others. His legend quickly grew in the process, and The Kyrie Irving Era would soon become synonymous with clutch performances. Kyrie spoke directly to that personal trend of thriving in the fourth quarter on Tuesday too. The now twenty year-old Rookie of the Year said, “the fourth quarter is no different than the first quarter for me. I love that moment at the end of the game, I cherish that moment”. For that, Cavs fans have grown to cherish him. The same fans he thanked in his opening remarks by saying, “I’d like to thank the city of Cleveland, this award is for you guys.” An award his new city will gladly celebrate with him.
Byron and his Point Guard: Byron Scott’s relationship with Kyrie Irving was on display yesterday too. Irving spoke glowingly, playfully, and respectfully about Byron all at the same time. I’m sometimes critical of Scott too. I think he’s the guy for this job to be sure, but I’ve pointed out things he’s done that I haven’t agreed with in the past as well. His over-reliance on Anthony Parker was frustrating at times this season, playing Ryan Hollins when he did was too, and I also think he skated accountability for a record-setting losing streak he helped set two seasons ago also. At the same time though, there is no denying the importance of his relationship with Kyrie Irving now. He worked to develop a similar one with Chris Paul before Irving too. Both Point Guards love Scott, both guys flourished under him, and now both guys went on to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year under his tutelage. Kyrie called Byron old during his presser, he called him bald too, but he also said he wouldn’t have won this award with Scott as his Coach. Whether that’s true or not, Byron certainly had a major hand in making this happen, and that’s encouraging moving forward.
Kyrie’s giving the Kia to his old AAU Coach: Kyrie won a Kia SUV along with the trophy he received for winning Rookie of the Year. He said he’s giving the Kia to his AAU coach from New Jersey, and recalled driving around to games back in the day in his coach’s jam-packed mini-van with five of his friends and teammates. It’s a nice gesture for Kyrie to make too, even if there’s no way he actually would drive around in a Kia at this point in his financial life. Somebody on Twitter tweeted at me to say that “somehow the NCAA will use this to vacate Duke’s wins from his year there” as a result. They won’t do that, at least I don’t think they would, but the thought is funny.
The way the ROY Voting shook out: The final tallies in the Rookie of the Year voting were relatively humours. I think the votes that sportswriters cast for this award should be made public, and each writer should have to offer his reasons for taking the position he or she did in making their vote, but instead it remains anonymous. So we don’t know who voted Kenneth Faried, Kwahi Leonard, or Iman Shumpet number one overall, but somebody did. If any other player deserved a 1st place vote, in my opinon, it was Ricky Rubio. I don’t think he should’ve gotten one, but I’d hear the argument that if Rubio doesn’t get hurt, keeps playing like he was playing, blah, blah, blah from there, that’s why I voted him first. But while Rubio finished second, he didn’t get any first place votes at all. Faried, Leonard, and Shumpert did though, over Irving. Josh Selby got a third place vote also, and he spent time in the D-League this season. Isaiah Thomas finished 7th and he should’ve finished 5th at worst, probably even 4th, or maybe even higher I think. That’s a topic for another day however.
History only remembers number one anyways: Who finished third in the ROY balloting the year Shaquille O’Neal won it? Who finished second when Allen Iverson did? Who got a random third place vote and finished 12th the year Tyreke Evans won? Exactly, who cares. Irving finished first this season, in a wire-to-wire win, and it’s his Rookie campaign that will be remembered most from this past season. Kyrie joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, and LeBron James as the only No. 1 overall draft picks to average at least 18.0 points and 5.0 assists in their first season. He averaged 18.5 points on forty-seven percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 30.5 minutes per game to be precised. He also shot forty percent from three. He definitely won the ROY over Faried, Leonard, and Shumpert, even though it wasn’t unanimous.
Remember when you wanted to draft Derrick Williams first? Derrick Williams did not get any votes at all for Rookie of the Year. Josh Selby finished ahead of him, along with Chandler Parsons. Brandon Knight got six 2nd place votes and three 3rd place votes to finsih 8th overall in the voting too as a heads up. I remember who you were, people that told me you wanted to draft Williams and Knight over Irving and whoever else at four heading into last June’s Draft. You were wrong. Kyrie Irving’s the truth, he’s your NBA Rookie of the Year, and he’s just getting started. Glad he found his way to Cleveland.