Kyrie Irving is beginning the second phase of his career and to many objective onlookers it is puzzling why he didn’t like the first phase, particularly when it delivered him to the NBA Finals three years in a row. But peel back a lot of the veneer Irving would cling to, listen to how he responded to questions about the team’s performance when LeBron was inactive and the Cavs lost catastrophically, and his resignation drowned out the room. He had LeBron fatigue. LeBron casts an eternal shadow. Everything Kyrie accomplished was always compared to James and never stood on it’s own merit. I have heard many people downgrade Irving’s last second shot for the title. They say instead, “but LeBron’s block set that up.” Every great player has a singular moment of glory. Kyrie was always robbed of his because LeBron is who LeBron is. Clearly, Kyrie had the problem and Kyrie had to leave. But is all this Kyrie mania overblown. How great is he really?
It’s Not Hate: Kyrie Isn’t Steph Curry 2.0
No matter how hard Kyrie Irving is trying to play chess and not checkers, he is not the best player of his generation. Two years before Kyrie was drafted, Steph Curry was drafted. Curry already has two NBA titles, is surrounded by transcendent talent and has figured out a way to make his own game and the team work, and, oh yeah, Steph Curry is happy sharing the limelight.
It is irrelevant that Kyrie cannot guard Steph and Steph cannot guard Kyrie. Steph is the better player, the better teammate, the better leader, more dyamic, a two time MVP. The narrative surrounding Irving is he wants to be transcendent like LeBron James. But Irving isn’t even as accomplished as Steph.
|Kyrie Looking Up At Steph||Points||FG%||3-Point%||Assist %||PER|
A desire to be great and willing to work for it is part of the equation, the first line of the blueprint. But desire doesn’t get you anything. You have to invest guts to get glory and then sometimes guts is not even enough. Great players have led teams nowhere. Luck is always involved.
Luck was on Kyrie’s side when LeBron returned to Cleveland but for Kyrie, who had just signed his extension, he was deflated. LeBron blocks out the sun. Taking a back seat did have its benefits. It helped Kyrie, even if he won’t admit it. He was able to observe the habitual practices of an iconic player. Kyrie’s assimilation had an educational purpose. Learn from the master. And then run away.
That learning curve is over as Kyrie is the captain with his own crew, anticipating rough waters but not sure if there are enough oars in the boat in case disaster happens. What he wanted so badly is here and despite all of his excuses, most of which I do not believe, he cannot blame anyone but himself, if, when all is said and done, he is not Steph Curry. If he is just a good point guard who likes to make shots but doesn’t defend, doesn’t make players better, doesn’t dominate his position. Yes, he still will be considered talented and special. Transcendent though?
Think again. (C.J. Hampshire)
Give Me Kemba
Count me in as someone who is sick of the Kyrie Irving flu. He is living off the fruit of one grand shot in one important game, in one big moment. But the getting there, the driving the team, the leadership? Kyrie Irving is a good player but not a great player. He isn’t interested in team. If that was the case he would still be in Cleveland with LeBron. Kyrie is interested in establishing his own future, his own superstardom. He is selfish. Listen to what he was really saying beneath all the spin. He would rather lose with the Celtics and be the star than win with the Cavs and defer to LeBron.
I would rather have Kemba Walker. Both Kemba and Kyrie were drafted in 2011. In 2016-17 Kemba scored 23.2 points, dished 5.5 assists while draining 44.4% of his shots and 39.9% from three. Kyrie’s numbers were eerily similar.
|Kemba vs. Kyrie (Year Six)||2011 Draft||Points||3-Point %||Real Plus-Minus (PG) Rank||PER|
|Kyrie Irving, 2016-17||#1||25.2||40.1%||#12||23.0|
|Kemba Walker, 2016-17||#9||23.2||39.9%||#8||21.3|
Six years after being selected after Kyrie, their individual production parallels. (They are the same height too.) The only difference is LeBron James. He was Kyrie’s teammate and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is Kemba’s.
Kemba’s Offensive and Defensive Rating for his career is 112 and 109. Kyrie’s Offensive and Defensive Rating for his career is 112 and 109.
|2016-17||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating|
|Kyrie Irving, Cavs||116||112|
|Kemba Walker, Hornets||113||111|
Reading from the Kyrie Irving/Kobe Bryant manifesto, Kemba has been allowed to lead and be the center of the team without having to share the love with a Hall of Fame player. What the Hornets accomplish weighs positively on Kemba’s shoulders. When the Hornets fail, Kemba carries with him the critique. That is what Kyrie will soon find out. He wants solo stardom. But does he want solo blame? He can’t hide in the folds of the LeBron James cape anymore. (Brendan Gillespie)
Kyrie’s Title Winning Shot Is Why We Are Here
Kyrie is 25 years old and like a lot of 25 year olds his decision making will come back to haunt him when he gets to be 30. He thinks what he wants is a separation. Exhausted and frustrated, on a team with LeBron James, Kyrie was never going to be an equal, even after making the greatest single shot of his career. But the irony is that shot set the stage for what is happening now. That shot vindicated everything Irving had been whispering and evangelizing. He deserves a bigger share of everything. Now that he proved he was superstar clutch, and now that he had a title, and now that he had survived LeBron James, the man, the myth, the mystery, and now that he delivered Cleveland a title, he could satiate his ego and do what he wanted. He could think about and please Kyrie. Everyone else be damned.
But what if history had not been history? Had that shot not gone in, had the Warriors won game 7 and were repeat champions, Irving still would have his LeBron angst burning a hole in his heart.
James and Irving were never going to co-exist for the long term. James wanted a little brother and Irving wanted co-billing. Just last year, James was saying his relationship with Irving wasn’t going to devolve into a Kobe-Shaq thing and then it devolved into a Kobe-Shaq thing.
The last second three over Steph Curry gave Kyrie credibility. It supported his basic thesis about himself that he was a star and he didn’t need to linger in the shadows of a bigger star. Kyrie wrapped an illusion around himself that his offense alone was enough to lead a team but leadership isn’t about offense. It is about teammates believing in you. It is about being accountable and responsible. Can you inspire? What is your commitment?
Kyrie wants all or he wants nothing. The details will come later, work themselves out. He was lucky to land in Boston with a talented team that has a chance at inflicting damage. But they are not better than a LeBron James Cleveland team.
Kyrie is going to lose before he wins. There is this sense that he is not bothered by that. He has his title, he has his legacy moment. He made that shot. He saved Cleveland. He can walk on water now. Or, he can sink. But when the dream is this close, you have to run to it. Every man would. (Valerie Morales)
photo via llananba