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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
Irving under a microscope
Kyrie Irving Things intensify for Kyrie Irving in just a few weeks.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Kyrie Irving should be glowing.

He's not long removed from being named the Most Valuable Player of the FIBA World Cup, leading the United States to a gold medal. In what started as a crowded group of stud point guards for the American side, Irving grabbed the starting job and flourished.

"This is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life," Irving said. "This feels amazing. It's one of the greatest feelings that I've ever felt. All the emotions haven't come to me yet but I did it with a bunch of guys that I can call my brothers for the rest of my life."

Irving's experience in Spain may have been wonderful, but things intensify for him in just a few weeks.

When he heads to training camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers, everything will change. That's because LeBron James returned home. Oh, and another top-10 player in the league, Kevin Love, also now toils in Cleveland.

The expectations are astronomical and warranted. This Cavaliers team is loaded and an easy favorite in the Eastern Conference, alongside the Chicago Bulls.

The weight of heavy expectations can be a burden. For James, who has been scorched by the spotlight since high school, it's old hat. He's been to five NBA Finals, winning two, and has dealt with being the overwhelming favorite. James put a bull's-eye the size of South Beach on his back when he joined the Miami Heat.

Plus, the media scrutiny on James has always been immense. For example, this week, there was analysis of James' former receding hairline. The power alleys on his head have been filled in by hair, so we discuss it.

Irving has never experienced anything like that, not anywhere close. In three seasons, Irving may have been to two All-Star games, but he's never sniffed the postseason.

"For me it was about going out there and playing with other great players in the world. I've never gotten to experience that," Irving said after the World Cup.

He will get to experience it quickly. James and Love, who has also made as many postseason appearances as Irving, or your local butcher for that matter, are the elite of the elite. Where Irving fits in that pecking order is up for debate. If you think he's the second option, that's valid. He'll have the ball in his hands more than Love. But Love is a superior offensive talent, who scores inside as well outside, and is the league's most ferocious rebounder.

Playing with James can be tricky. Ego can be a funny thing, even when playing with someone is most likely going to be one of the top five in the history of the sport.

In Miami, James was caught on camera several times berating Mario Chalmers. Comparing Irving and Chalmers is like comparing a Rolex to a dependable Casio, but James can be tough on those around him.

It took Dwyane Wade almost a season and a half to come to grips with the fact that the Heat belonged to James. Irving and Love won't be like that. Neither is a raging narcissist, but Irving will have a lot of adjusting ahead of him.

His Cavs teams have been dysfunctional at best and a heaping pile of mess at worst. Irving will play for his third coach in four years when David Blatt sits in the big chair this season. There were reports of locker room turmoil involving Irving and Dion Waiters, who is still around, by the way.

If the Cavs fail to win a title, or even get to the Finals, the ultimate responsibility will fall on James. He penned the essay anointing himself as the savior of Cleveland. That, and the fact that James is the best player in the world will make this James' team.

But if Irving struggles adjusting to playing with James or Love, the backlash will be palpable. As the point guard, it's his job to facilitate the offense and get James and Love their touches, all while staying an aggressive weapon himself.

It's a juggling act, but his experience with Team USA should help.

"For me, playing with this team, like I said, you have so many pieces you can go to," Irving said. "It's easy for me to take a backseat when Steph Curry is hot or when James Harden is hot or A.D. (Anthony Davis) is in the post and he's killing it. It's easy for me to do that. It's not hard."

It's harder in Cleveland. James is more demanding than Harden, or Curry, or Davis. The U.S. played Serbia in the gold medal game. Serbia isn't the Bulls, or the San Antonio Spurs, or Oklahoma City Thunder.

And Irving's own personal expectations have been lofted, not just because of the MVP award at the World Cup.

He signed a five-year max contract extension at the start of the summer. That was the first domino for the Cavaliers in this amazing offseason. Irving is also one of the faces of the league in terms of national marketing. Remember Uncle Drew?

On the court, Irving has some warts to work through as well. He's only played 181 of a possible 230 games battling through injuries, which also haunted him at Duke. His scoring and shooting numbers regressed some last season, and they'll be sure to go down with James and Love in Ohio.

How Irving handles this whole situation is vital to the Cavs' success. He will be counted on to stay as one of the league's cream of the crop, while giving up some of his game.

"Going back to Cleveland everyone is going to have their assumptions of what's going to happen," Irving said. "I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen until you guys see us play."

All true, but Irving will be under a larger microscope than ever before. The Cavs will need the World Cup MVP. Can he handle it?

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- The Rockets think they're bolstering their bench with the acquisition of Jason Terry. But the Jet hasn't been good in two years. It's a low risk/high reward move, but I wonder what Terry has left in the tank.

- As for LeBron's hair, as a bald man, it's treason.

- My guess is that Danny Ferry does not return as Atlanta Hawks general manager. Aside from the fact that he shouldn't because there's no excuse defensible enough for his actions, no one survives scandal in this day and age.

- I get the argument that Coach K gets an advantage in recruiting by being the head men's coach for USA Basketball, but what's he supposed to do, turn down the job to be fair to other college coaches? Almost any other coach of that pedigree would take the USA job in a nanosecond. And, it's not like Krzyzewski had a lot of trouble recruiting before the national job.

- Speaking of college coaching, Kentucky's John Calipari is reportedly creating an exclusive scouting combine for NBA personnel prior to the start of the season. What a genius idea. First, that's a recruiting tool unlike any other. He can tell kids they will get a personal combine and the other brilliant aspect is that Calipari plans to stage this event in mid-October. So, Calipari can get it over with, then get the kids committed to Kentucky basketball.

- Old sport second - There may not be another column prior to the Ryder Cup as anyone who followed me from golf to basketball knows the event is my favorite in the world. I like Europe, but I think it'll be much closer than anticipated. Europe has holes in the form of Stephen Gallacher, Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson. They're solid, but beatable. Plus, Ian Poulter is not playing well. He will because it's the Ryder Cup, but his game is not in great shape. The U.S. will need huge production from everyone, but the American team is not that bad. I'll take Europe, but it's going to be close.

- Movie moment - Re-watched "The Social Network" the other day. What a great movie. Brilliantly written and great supporting work from Andrew Garfield and even Justin Timberlake. Calling the Winklevoss twins the Winklevii will always be one of my favorite jokes.

- TV moment - New shows this season that I will watch ... crickets.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
3rd
ECU 42
UNC 20
 
1st
TOWSN 0
NCCU 0
 
1st
NCSU 0
PRES 0
 
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
CHC 8
LOS 7
7th
OAK 0
PHI 0
 
6th
NYY 2
TOR 4
 
7th
COL 5
ARI 1
 
7:05pm Tonight
BAL
BOS
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
CWS
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
CLE
7:10pm Tonight
ATL
NYM
7:10pm Tonight
HOU
SEA
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
7:15pm Tonight
STL
CIN
8:40pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
9:05pm Tonight
ANA
TEX
Final
WISC 68
BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
 
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
 
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
 
4th
WAKE 17
ARMY 21
 
3rd
KU 10
CMICH 3
 
3rd
ALA 21
UF 21
 
2nd
FIU 0
LOU 21
 
3rd
ECU 42
UNC 20
 
3rd
NAVY 17
RUTG 31
 
3rd
SMU 3
TEXAM 48
 
4th
MICH 10
UTAH 23
 
3rd
BYU 20
UVA 16
 
3rd
WYO 10
FATL 13
 
3rd
MIZZ 17
IND 17
 
3rd
PSU 34
UMASS 0
 
3rd
MINN 17
SJST 7
 
4:00pm Today
ILL 6
TXST 14
1st
WASH 0
GASTATE 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
SMISS
APPST
7:00pm Tonight
TOL
BST
7:00pm Tonight
OHIO
IDAHO
7:00pm Tonight
CIN
UMO
7:00pm Tonight
MEM
MTST
7:00pm Tonight
LSU
MSST
7:00pm Tonight
ARK
NILL
7:00pm Tonight
ARKST
UTST
7:30pm Tonight
SALABAMA
GASO
7:30pm Tonight
WVU
OKLA
7:30pm Tonight
VANDY
SCAR
8:00pm Tonight
FSU
CLEM
8:00pm Tonight
NEB
MIAMI
8:00pm Tonight
NMST
NMU
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
UNLV
10:00pm Tonight
ARZ
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
BSU
LALAF
10:30pm Tonight
WASU
OREG
10:30pm Tonight
ORST
SDST
1st
TOWSN 0
NCCU 0
 
1st
NCSU 0
PRES 0