LeBron James is, without question, the most talented player on the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has the highest BBall IQ and more ways to impact the game than any other player. However, based on my observations of the team including things I witnessed on the court last night, it seems that Kyrie Irving holds the keys to Cavalier success in 2014-15.
It has very little to do with his 35 points scored last night, although that was certainly fun to watch. It has everything to do with him being the true reflection of his coach on the floor, as he was for Coach K on the USA team this summer. That role is almost always reserved for the point guard of any basketball team. Despite attempts, understandably, by James to roust that role from Kyrie, it is clearly Kyrie’s role to play if the Cavaliers want to extend to the next level of success.
Kyrie Irving has been the personification of professionalism in his role with the “new” Cavaliers. He has stayed out of the center of controversy. He has stayed above the nitpicking press who is trying to drive a wedge in the team every chance they get. He has showed the most consistent effort and intensity. Irving has rarely taken “time off” of the defensive end. He has most convincingly endorsed his coach and shown that he will do whatever it takes to win for him. Kyrie has most clearly committed to Cleveland and it’s team both with his words and his contract.
There should be little doubt that if the Cavaliers are to weather this storm and come out a winner, it will be Kyrie Irving that leads the way in terms of professionalism and grit. As Chris Paul is for the Clippers, he will be the glue that mends the team. Yes, he is very young. Yes, he is not a true leader like LeBron James is in terms of experience and talent. In fact, I am not implying he is the leader on this team (that role resides with LeBron). But he is the glue that will mend the divides and improve the play of everyone around him. He will be, as he should be, the true point guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now, having heard all that, it might seem this is an indirect slam on LeBron and his recent slow smoking of the embers that burn under the Cavaliers. One might think I am trying to make a point that Kyrie is the better leader than LeBron in general. That is not the case here.
I think that James, when he said very early that he “knew what he must do”, was correct in his assessment that he needed to be the primary driver on the offensive end. He was correct that he needed the ball in his hands and to be more aggressive. He helped the Cavs get a nice winning streak and get them kick started forward. Now I think James needs to see a different reality. Kyrie is more capable of assuming the point than he was early. He knows his teammates better and passes to them more in rhythm. He rarely tries the sloppy behind the back and inside wedge passes that hit his or the opponents legs and bounce harmlessly away. He is less nonchalant with the ball and more purposeful. What LeBron and Coach Blatt need to impress upon Kyrie is that he is not needed to dribble through 4 guys on the way to a transition basket. He can see the block and back out. He can run the offense when it isn’t there. Same for LeBron.
This all has to do with trust of your teammates. Kyrie and LeBron have a ton of talent around them and they need to use it. The national press and even the local press sometimes might make you believe that the Cavs have no talent after LeBron. The story of LeBron against the world is a good one that sells. But that is not the case in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are barely scratching the surface of their talent. Think of our 60+ win teams with LeBron the first time around. He had NOTHING when compared to the talent on the current team. Yet this team looks like they will struggle to win 50 games. Don’t be deceived by December appearances. This team has far more to grow and far more to prove going forward.
The stories of LeBron vs Blatt and LeBron trying to force Lue as the head coach are all conjecture based on “source” innuendo and opinions. Some have said that they have been following this controversy for weeks and have visual evidence to support their opinion. They have said that players don’t trust coaches who have not played in the NBA and had experience there. (And Eric Spoelstra played in NBA??) Others point out the lackluster effort on the court by James at times being in “chill” mode as evidence he is trying to undermine Blatt. All of these points have elements of truth but that is why Kyrie holds the key to glue all of this together. He has given no such clues as to a crack in his loyalty. He has supplied consistent effort on both ends of the court. He has a long term contract with the Cavs.
So, if we are looking for a “hero” to lead us out of the darkness, look no further than our own point guard. He learned how to play with talented players and consistently play defense this summer. He learned under a coach who has not coached ONE MINUTE of NBA basketball.
LeBron is still the undisputed leader of the Cavs. He will always be the key to success on the floor. But he can do that in many ways. Having the ball consistently in his hands with his loose handle and inconsistent passing is not the way to elevate the Cavs NOW. It was necessary before. It is time for LeBron to see that and turn over the reigns to his point guard. Let Kyrie make his mistakes and guide him as he goes. James can do that. LeBron can cut hard off the ball and get some easy hoops. Why not? He deserves it.