When the Cavs won the first overall pick in the NBA Draft last year, they were given the opportunity to draft a key piece that would help rebuild the franchise after LeBron James’ departure. Even in their wildest dreams I’m not quite sure the Cavs even saw this kind of success coming for Kyrie Irving this soon in his career. Irving has not only lived up to the expectations placed on the first overall pick, but the city of Cleveland has fallen in love with him and he has allowed the franchise to move on from everything that happened last year when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach.
At 19-years-old, Irving is already the best player on the Cavs roster, one of the ten best point guards in the NBA, and he makes playing the position look easy. In his first season in the NBA, Irving is averaging 18.6 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, all while shooting 48 percent from the field, 41 percent from three point range and 86 percent from the free throw line. Think about those numbers for a minute and then try to remember that he is just 19-years-old. Not to mention the Former Blue Devil has played just 33 games in his promising NBA career and has three game-winners attached to his resume, including a coast-to-coast beauty the other night against the Nuggets. By the time the season ends he will have Rookie of the Year attached to his resume as well.
Kyrie Irving joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland with the Hooligans to talk about if it is strange to be 19-years-old and already the go-to guy on a team, if he was worried about his body holding up this season after the injury plagued year a season ago at Duke, what changes for him in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line, why he has been able to make the transition to the NBA look so easy, when he signed his first autograph, and what his goals were this season.
If it is strange to be 19-years-old and already the go-to guy on the Cavs:
“At times I catch myself thinking I’m older than what I really am. My teammates remind me that I’m 19-years-old and the media reminds me as well but I’ve kind of gotten used to it. I’ve earned those stripes from my teammates and being the supposed go-to guy it’s a good feeling.”
If he was worried about staying healthy during the grind of this season:
“No not really. All I was really worried about was preparing myself as best as I can for this grueling 66 game season. Doing extra things in the weight room and on the court and prolonging my rookie season as best as I can and not hitting that rookie well. That’s all I was really concerned about. I wasn’t really concerned about whether my body could uphold this season.”
What changes for him in the fourth quarters of games:
“Throughout the game I try to get my teammates involved as much as possible and when it comes to the fourth quarter I’ve taken mental notes on what I see the defenses doing out there. Those little mistakes that they make that I don’t take advantage of in the first, second, and third quarters, I take advantage of it in the fourth quarter. For me it’s just a mental game. Once the plays that develop that I didn’t take advantage of in the first half or the beginning of the third quarter I take advantage in the fourth quarter. Just mental notes that I take.”
On why he has been able to transition so easily to the NBA:
“Just the confidence in my teammates. We all come in and consistently work in the gym and I feel like I’ve earned that respect so going out there and playing is easy for me. Coach Scott, best coach in the NBA for me, a player coach I feel like I can talk to him about anything and he allows me to make mistakes and grow. He’s not going to take me out if I turn the ball over once or twice. He’s going to come in and pull me to the side and tell me to slow down and let the game come to me. Having the confidence of your teammates and the trust and respect of them makes my game that much easier.”
When he signed his first autograph:
“I think I was 13 or 14. (Host: How does it make you feel when you see an older guy wearing your jersey?) It’s a blessing. I would’ve never imagined I would be in this position and just knowing that two years ago I was in high school, a senior in high school getting ready to go to Duke and play for one of the greatest coaches ever and a lot has changed in those two years and I’ve grown a lot mentally and physically. It’s crazy and the fan support everywhere is astounding.”
Whether he set goals for his rookie year:
“Absolutely. I’ve set goals since I was 14-years-old. As a person, academically, and athletically. (Host: What were your goals coming into this season?) Just to get more wins than we had last season, to be one of the best defensive players on our team, and I had a couple of averages that I wanted to accomplish, and to make the playoffs most importantly.”
What it would mean to be named Rookie of the Year:
It would be a great honor. It would be a great honor. Like I said I would give all the credit to my teammates because they trusted me throughout the season and I really love playing with these guys.”