By Josh Kramer
6-26-2003. 7-8-2010. 6-23-2011. Three days that will forever define the history of an NBA franchise. So you are probably sitting there wondering why I would list out these three dates. Well a renaissance of sorts is occurring in the often sports deprived city of Cleveland. And these are the three key dates that tell the story.
6-26-2003: Back on June 26, 2003, Cleveland gave their heart to a kid out of a local Akron High School called St. Vincent-St. Mary. The Cavs spent the number one draft pick on the already proclaimed “King” LeBron James. LBJ was supposed to be “The Answer,” as the city of Cleveland would bear “Witness” to his unmistakable greatness and win their first NBA title since ever (the franchise has never won a title still).
7-8-2010: Seven years later, on July 8, 2010, James ripped Cleveland’s heart out with the infamous “Decision.” During his time in Cleveland, the Cavaliers became a perennial contender, made an NBA finals, and for the first time in franchise history, had real aspirations of a championship. Before LeBron, you would have to go back to the Mark Price days to see success of any sort regarding Cavaliers basketball.
6-23-2011: This past June, Cleveland once again had the number one pick of the draft. And though the expectations were not nearly as high as they were for the “King,” former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving is living up to all of the hype and more. Amazingly enough, I talked about the former St. Patrick’s prep star (Kyrie Irving) on this very blog two years ago to the day. Unfortunately, he missed a free throw on that day to blow the game. These days, he does not miss free throws too often (84.3% from the line).
I will admit that I was very skeptical in regards to Kyrie back in June. I felt like Duke was poised to repeat as National Champions last year with the return of stars such as Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. If anything, Duke was at least Final Four bound again. Then “Diaper Dandy” Kyrie Irving returned from a foot injury in time for March Madness and seemed to throw everything off. All of the sudden, it was no longer Nolan’s team, it was Kyrie’s. And well, we all know how that ended up. Derrick Williams was one of the many people around the country that took advantage of Duke’s inner turmoil.
Then as the draft drew closer, and everyone knew who was leaving for the pros and who wasn’t, Kyrie turned into the frontrunner to be taken at number one. This astonished me in that Kyrie played just 11 games as a freshman at Duke. Would you be willing to invest your future in 11 games considering players are forced to spend a year removed from high school these days? I wouldn’t have been. And it is a good thing I am not the much-maligned Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers Owner), because I would have been wrong. Hands down, Kyrie Irving is playing better than any other rookie in the League at this point.
Kyrier currently is leading all rookies in scoring at 17.7 points a game. In addition, he is getting his less than stellar supporting cast involved, averaging 5.2 assists per game (2nd among rookies). Lastly, he is not trying to do too much, like many lottery picks initially do. He is taking quality shots and shooting a very respectable 48.6% from the floor.
Irving appears to be destined for a very special career. Just ask his coach Byron Scott, who played with Magic Johnson, and had the pleasure of coaching both Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. Scott knows points guards. And he knows Kyrie is special.
So what if Kyrie Irving will never be LeBron James. He appears to have already lifted the Cavaliers from disaster to mediocrity (currently the Cavs are 6 and 7, 7th in the East). Last season the Cavaliers won 19 games and had the 2nd worst record in the NBA. It was a drastic fall, from a team that possessed the NBA’s best record a year earlier (61 wins). Kyrie does not and probably will not ever have the “LeBron Effect.” But he has provided a rebirth of sorts in Cleveland.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.