Kyrie Irving’s amazing summer fueled by frantic off-season


When Kyrie Irving and owner Dan Gilbert shook hands on July 1 in New Jersey, it foreshadowed an off-season that the Cleveland Cavaliers would, and will, never forget. Agreeing to a five-year, $90 million contract extension officially on July 10, the handshake on the First set off the domino effect that was the All-Star overhaul that the Cavaliers roster went through. LeBron James decided to return home, then he brought along old pals James Jones and Mike Miller. Shawn Marion decided to join the Cavs bench. Kevin Love was swapped for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

And suddenly Kyrie Irving was surrounded by the All-Star talent that he has needed over the past three years. A Rookie of the Year Award, two back-to-back All-Star performances, a Three-Point crown and a 2014 All-Star MVP Award has defined Irving’s individual successes, but now the Cavaliers prodigal point guard gets to prove to the NBA that he will be just as successful as a teammate. Irving hasn’t had the talent around him to get the job, getting the Cavs back to the playoffs, done, but now there is no excuse. He has shined in the spotlight when given the chance, but the NBA playoffs are the last stage that he needs to reach to prove that he is worth the accolades he has received.

Most recently, however, Kyrie Irving has picked up another set of accolades on his way to reaching the playoffs for the first time in his short career. After being named to the Team USA roster for the FIBA World Cup, Irving was then named one of the starters for the remainder of the tournament. What did this give Kyrie an opportunity to do? Play in a starting lineup with other All-Stars. He shared the floor with the likes of Stephen Curry (1x All-Star), James Harden (2x), Anthony Davis (1x) and Kenneth Faried in the starting lineup, valuable experience for the Cavs floor general heading into his fourth season.

Kyrie Irving wasn’t just able to play good in a lineup surrounding by other NBA greats, he outperformed many of his peers from Group Stage play to the Gold Medal Game. Team USA started their quest for gold by demolishing Finland in the first Group Stage contest 114-55. In 20 minutes of play in his first official Team USA game, Irving shot 4 of 7 from the field and logged nine points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals. It was a solid performance for his first time out, and it set the precedent for an amazing FIBA World Cup tournament from Irving. Up next was Turkey, Team USA’s toughest opponent in group play. Turkey was up by five points at the half, but the Americans were able to pull away in the second half and cruise to a 21-point victory. Irving shot 5 of 9 from the field, scoring 13 points and notching five assists. In five Group Stage games, Irving averaged 9.8 points, 3.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals, while shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from three.

Kyrie Irving Highlights — 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP: 

It was on to the elimination round for Team USA, and the Americans cruised by Mexico in the Round of 16 game. Although Kyrie Irving didn’t shine in his first elimination game as a member of Team USA, he quickly rebounded with the Americans’ drubbing of Slovenia. Irving ended up with a pretty even stat line, logging 12 points, three assists, four rebounds and four assists, while shooting 5 of 9 from the field. After the 43-point stomping of Slovenia, it was on to the Final Four from here for Team USA, and this is when Kyrie really started to shine. With one game to go until the Gold Medal Game, Irving showed the world that he could still be a high-volume offensive threat when surrounded by All-Stars. The Cavaliers point guard shot 8 of 15 from the field, scoring a team-high 18 points. It set the tone for an MVP performance by Irving in the summer finale.

Serbia awaited Team USA in the Gold Medal Game, but they didn’t put up too much of a fight. The Americans won by 37 points, and the standout star for the second game in a row was Kyrie Irving. Irving shot a perfect 6 of 6 from the field, scoring a team-high (once again) 26 points. Irving was able to collect MVP honors because of this, adding another individual accolade to his collection. Once again, these awards will mean something to Kyrie Irving one day, but all of these achievements are just pushing him to want to achieve goals as a team. He’s a proven star in this league, but the next step is to win when it matters. For the tournament, Irving averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals, while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from three. His amazing finish to the tournament from beyond the arc helped lead his team to a pulverizing performance in the FIBA World Cup.

But the next step is much more important.

Kyrie will get to play beside two Team USA All-Stars who did not participate in the summer’s festivities, so even though there looked to be a lot of chemistry going on between Irving and the other Americans, he is stepping into a brand new situation in Cleveland. There will be some similarities (i.e. Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao), but mostly some new toys for Kyrie Irving to play with (i.e. LeBron, K. Love, the crafty vets). How he will fit in with his new teammates is to be determined, but what transpired this summer has to be promising for fans worrying about the chemistry this team will have this season.

Contract-wise, Kyrie Irving will be the cornerstone of this franchise for years to come; he is in fact guaranteed to be a Cavalier (barring a trade) until 2020. Irving showed the ability to work with talented teammates while still being able to drive on the open floor and finish at the hoop or create space on the perimeter with his crafty ball-handling skills. But he was able to recognize the teammates around him at times and dish it off down low or on the wing because the talent was there. He has time to prove himself, but how long will he have the teammates to do so?