How is it that a 22-year-old, star-in-the-making can be named an NBA All-Star in two of his first three seasons, garner Rookie of The Year honors and be named an All-Star Game MVP, yet now bemoan that largely incomparable start as more or less a waste of time and effort?
No one disputes that over the last three seasons, Irving has head and shoulders been the Cleveland Cavaliers best player and most dynamic talent. But when it comes to being effective leader, even the ever boastful former Duke star readily admits he’s fallen woefully short at times in terms of leadership.
“I haven’t been a leader — not at all,” Irving told RealGM.com. “I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. Now we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I’m going to learn from.”
Indeed, it appears the strategy of teaming James with Irving has resulted in the latter looking himself squarely in the face and being brutally honest with himself about just who he’s been as a player and who he’s capable of being as they embark on their dynasty-seeking trek together.
Three seasons of losing some 66 percent of one’s games can make a man grow up and mature quickly — even as he’s still finding himself and comprehending more about the kind of player he needs to become to be the winner he insist he longs to be.
The Cavs have also added veteran forwards Shawn Marion and Mike Miller and are soon expected to land Kevin Love and Ray Allen, making the way Irving accepts his almost surefire less-of-a-scorer, more-of-a-distributor role all the more critical to their efforts.
“I was very excited, just for the opportunity to play with him,” Irving said of James. “You heard the rumors for two months and nobody thought it was possible. But he decided to come home … it will be good having the greatest player playing the game today running alongside the wing.”
As a member of the star-studded Team USA squad headed to Spain later this month to compete in the FIBA World Cup Games, Irving is now getting a taste of what it might be like to play with so many stars who are so accustomed to getting the ball when and where they want it.
But in the end, nothing can quite prepare you for playing with a talent as transcendent as playing with LeBron James except playing with LeBron James.
“It’s good to have another piece that I’ll be able to lean,” he said. “When we’re out there, there will be more pieces and nobody can just load up on me like everybody did before. I’m not saying we didn’t have good players, but every team’s defense was to stop me. It’s good to finally be able to pass it to somebody.”