Kyrie Irving didn’t have the best position when being drafted No. 1 overall to the NBA. He walked into a Cleveland Cavaliers organization that had just lost LeBron James, and was asked to take over as the star player for an owner who just promised fans a championship in comic sans.
Since then, the Cavs haven’t made the playoffs and have picked first in the NBA Draft three times. However, James has returned with two rings on his hand and has brought a slew of veterans with him, including Kevin Love, Mike Miller and James Jones.
Now Irving, a tremendous scoring talent who just couldn’t keep his misguided locker room in order, won’t have to be the voice of the team. He told RealGM.com “I haven’t been a leader–not at all.”
“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.”
With James’ return instantly transforming the identity of the team, Irving can focus simply on playing his best ball. He says his primary focus right now is getting ready for the FIBA World Cup.
“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.”
Instead of trying to lead with no experience, Irving can follow the examples of his new championship-winning teammates–teammates he says he “admires.”