Kyrie Irving had to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers throughout his brief NBA career after the franchise took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft after one season at Duke and admits he’s failed as a leader so far, but wants to change that.
Irving has the talent to be one of the top point guards in the NBA, but the group of players around him in Cleveland made it difficult to have much on-court success.
Much was asked of the player who signed a five-year, $90 million extension this offseason, but while he thrived statistically, he failed as a leader, which is not uncommon for such a young athlete, in any sport.
With LeBron James and eventually Kevin Love coming to Cleveland this season in addition to veterans like Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion, Irving won’t have such a burden on his shoulders of being the unquestioned leader on the team. He can be one of the guys, but he’s hoping to develop his leadership skills by watching LeBron and others.
“Everybody asks me if this is my year to be a leader … I haven’t been so far though, not at all,” Irving said. “I’ve just been a kid trying to figure it out. There’s no perfect way to be a leader, and coming in as a 19-year-old kid and having everything bearing on your shoulders, there are a lot of ups and downs. Now it’s about being the best every single day and not being afraid.
“I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing.
“Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.”
What a difference a year makes, huh?
Those veterans need Irving to be a steady ball-handler and floor general just as much as he needs them to help him take his game to the next level and round out the NBA’s new big three of LeBron, Love and Irving.
Irving averaged 20.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and a career-high 6.1 assists while also playing in a career-high 71 games.