Like Dwyane Wade in 2010, Kyrie Irving finished his final game of the 2014 season unsure if LeBron James would join him as a teammate and propel the duo to NBA Championship contenders.
Fast forward to 2014 and like Wade was able to say in 2010, Irving is now a part of the king’s court, with a chance to win an NBA championship. Now that James has decided to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers, the pressure is on Irving, alongside James, to to bring home a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
James left Cleveland in 2010, mainly to win a championship, succeeding twice in four years. For the reasons that James took his talents to South Beach, he decided to bring them back home, thanks in large part to the promise Irving shows as a teammate.
Irving was drafted number one overall, a year after James left Cleveland for Miami in 2011 and led a franchise that was decimated by the loss of James. Standing as the new savior, Irving has averaged 20.7 points and 5.8 assists in his first three seasons with the Cavaliers, winning a Rookie of the Year award and being named a two-time all-star.
Cleveland has yet to win more than 33 games with Irving running the show but with the addition of James, the tides have turned in the favor of the city known as “The Mistake By the Lake.” Season tickets sold out just a day after James’ decision to return and the revitalized city is buzzing, counting the days to the tip-off the 2014-2015 season.
Prior to James’ 2.0 Decision to return home to Cleveland, Irving showed his loyalty, signing a 5-year $90 million deal to remain a Cavalier, a sign of commitment to a franchise and fan base longing for the days of success in past years.
“They wanted me to be a part of their future, and I wanted to be a part of their future, Irving said about the Cavaliers. “It was a huge monkey off my back, with all the speculation and all the B.S. I was hearing. I’m just happy I got it out of the way.”
Over the first two seasons of his NBA career, Irving was bit hard by the injury bug, missing a combined 54 games. Irving’s list of injuries include a hyper-extended knee, broken hand (required surgery), a fractured jaw, broken nose and sprained shoulder; all within the first three years of his career. Despite his injuries, Irving, 21, is maturing and understands his need to stay healthy to stay on the court.
“I am a little disappointed,” Irving said. “I have to be more responsible about my health.”
Now that the contracts have been signed and the team roster nearing complete (of course with the looming Kevin Love trade still on the table as well as the possibility of Ray Allen signing) Irving can focus on providing James with something he has never had. A legitimate point guard to run the show and take the burden off of him running the offense. James has also made it clear that he will help in making Irving an even better player, a scary thought for NBA coaches.
“I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league,” James said.
Irving has a rare skill set that few guards in the league possess. He has ball handling skills that could place him on an And 1 Streetball team, the ability to get to the rim and finish at will and can consistently knock down shots from the three point line. Let us not forget to add in that he has the “clutch gene” to make a game winning shot, something James’ doubters feel he lacks. He will be able to do all of the things that have made him great, while getting more open looks thanks to James’ presence on the court alongside him.
Irving, a former Duke Blue Devil, is in a great position to elevate his already stellar career to a championship contender level. He has done just enough for Cleveland to earn their trusted respect but now they will be looking to him to help carry them to stardom. For Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers, it is time to get to work on fulfilling the expectations set forth for them.
Although James did not promise multiple rings for Cleveland the same way he did in Miami, something tells me that Cavalier fans will not be satisfied until James and Irving deliver on bringing the Cavaliers their first championship.
“We want to bring a championship back and I want to be the forerunner of that and get the ball rolling” Irving said. “We wanted to prove that to everybody.”