NEW YORK - Likely 2011 NBA Draft No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving looked calm at the draft's media day on Wednesday, answering questions in a relaxed matter while still trying to sound confident. He initially dismissed thoughts that he had regrets about declaring for the NBA Draft after just 12 games at Duke, saying "if I had any regrets, I'd be back at Duke."
But later, he admitted there was a turning point where he had a difficult decision to make. As we all know, Irving suffered a toe injury in December, and most expected him to miss the rest of the season. He surprised many by returning for Duke in the NCAA Tournament, and actually made a significant contribution in several games. It was at that moment where Irving decided he needed to go pro.
"I would be back at Duke," Irving said when asked whether things would have turned out differently if he didn't come back.
"Honestly, me playing in the NCAA Tournament was the deciding factor for me," he said. "Being able to actually contribute out there and actually show glimpses of what I did at the beginning of the season was enough for me."
Irving said he knows that, even though he is probably the No. 1 pick (though he said it didn't mean anything until it actually happened), there will be some that question whether he is ready after just 12 games in college. But he's also been preparing for this moment from a young age. He told reporters that he has been talking to NBA players like LeBron James and Chris Paul at various Nike Skills Academy events growing up, taking notes on how they carry themselves through an NBA season. As he prepared to enter the draft, Irving referred back to those notes to prepare himself for the transition.
"When I was at these Nike skills academies, I'd always ask these guys what steps they've taken to maintain their bodies throughout the season. I had tons of notes taken from those skills academies, so I'm just going to go back to those and put them into play now that I'm going to be an NBA player."
When asked to describe his game, Irving cast a wide net, saying he was a cross between two very different kinds of point guards.
"I just feel like I'm in a mode between Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul. That middle ground. It's like two ends of the spectrum, honestly. Chauncey Billups is more of a half-court [player], while Chris Paul is more of an up-tempo [player]. I just feel like I'm in the balance between those two.
But Irving didn't single either out when asked who he was most excited to face in the NBA. In fact, he didn't really single out anybody.
"I have no fears [about playing against anyone]," he said. "I'm not really scared."