HOUSTON - Kyrie Irving is 20 years old, which probably explains why he was struggling to get through the half-hour clown show known as All-Star media availability on Friday. While his older Eastern Conference teammates drew multitudes -- the mere thought of getting anywhere near LeBron James induced claustrophobic nightmares -- Irving was generally left alone, save for a dozen or so interchangeable media types asking questions like:
What's the best part of All-Star Weekend? Is it the parties, seeing celebs?
What are your three favorite hip-hop songs that motivate you before a game?
For the record, Irving says he prefers R&B, which is the perfect complement to his smoothed out game. Even at his precocious age, there's something in the way Irving plays that is timeless. His handle is ridiculous, his stroke is pure and his savvy is years ahead of his time.
His numbers are also obscene: 23.5 points, 5.5 assists and, most impressively of all, a True Shooting over percentage of .567. In his second season he's increased his Usage rate and reduced his turnovers. The Cavs are still years away from contending, but ask yourself: is there any young lottery team that wouldn't trade their future for Cleveland's if it meant getting him on their roster?
Ben Golliver discusses Kyrie Irving's impact.
Kyrie Irving appeared before us practically full-formed after appearing in only 11 college games, and it's jarring as hell. Those who knew said there was no doubt, but there had to be a little, right?
OK, so his defense needs work. Our Cavs blog Fear the Sword crunched the numbers and came to the conclusion that Irving has made solid improvements on that end of the court in his second season. Again, he's just 20 years old playing on a team without its best interior defender and surrounded by other neophytes like Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.
His arrival kick-started a massive rebuilding process for a team that was essentially starting over from scratch. For the low, low price of paying Baron Davis for half a season, the Cavs picked up a second lottery pick in the 2011 draft from the Clippers. That pick happened to be the top choice, and lo and behold, a new savior was introduced just as the other one was winning his first NBA championship.
It's something of an open secret in league circles that the Cavs are biding their time and hoarding their cap space in the hopes of luring LeBron James back to Ohio. Should he decide to return he would find a team with a point guard prodigy entering his prime. It's a tantalizing thought, but for now it's just a fantasy.
Irving spent most of All-Star weekend introducing us to his reality. He was one of the only redeeming things about the Rising Stars thingamijig that was played on Friday night, and his epic crossover against poor Brandon Knight is already a candidate for gif of the year. Kenneth Faired may have won the MVP, but Irving was the show.
On Saturday, he won the 3-point contest over veteran marksman like Steve Novak and Matt Bonner and fellow young gunners Ryan Anderson, Paul George and Stephen Curry. Irving hit for 23 points in the final, just two points off the all-time record, and afterward he finally put into words what everyone has been thinking.
"This weekend was just basically about earning everybody's respect and getting a chance for people to see me that don't usually see me," he said. "We're not nationally televised. This weekend is show my face to the fans and get everybody acclimated to my face in the league."
We take it for granted that everyone else is a League Pass junkie and is acquainted with his talent. Those who are already know. Those who don't are getting familiar.
It's probably asking too much for Irving to carry over his impressive weekend performances into the main event on Sunday. Young players have had a notoriously tough time in their All-Star debuts, but with Rajon Rondo home recovering from a torn ACL, Irving is the de-facto point guard and will have the ball in his hands.
If not now, it will be soon. The world is waiting for Kyrie Irving to lead the next generation of stars, and it's only a matter of time.