Kyrie Irving is second on the Cavs in scoring and leading them in assists. He's shooting the highest field goal percentage of all the guards and he's second on the team in shots taken.
The Cavs are asking an awful lot of a 19-year-old rookie, but thus far, he's delivering.
"We still need him to score for us," Cavs coach Byron Scott said Wednesday following practice at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. "Antawn is doing a heck of a job scoring for us, and after that on a consistent basis is basically Kyrie. That's the one thing right now with a young point guard is trying to balance it out."
In order to win any games, the Cavs need Irving to be aggressive and look for his shot. But they also want him to run the offense and involve his teammates. Scott threw out his former teammate and Hall of Famer, Magic Johnson, as an example he hopes Irving can reach. Scott said Johnson would involve everyone for the first 2 1/2 quarters, then take over the game the rest of the way.
"I think and hope Kyrie will get to that point," Scott said.
Irving has clearly come to the conclusion over the last week to 10 days that he needs to get to the basket. He scoffed when I asked if he learned early in the season he had the ability to get by guys and said he knew he had it all along, otherwise he wouldn't have left college early.
"I think everybody in the NBA feels they have confidence to get by anybody," Irving said. "I don’t think anybody would be successful if they didn’t have the confidence to be at this level. I left college because I had the attitude that I could be successful at this level."
Scott has seen the increase in recent games in Irving attacking the basket and believes the confidence is there and he's starting to read defenses and find the right openings. He's had more than a few shots swatted under the basket in recent days, but it hasn't deterred him from driving inside again and again.
Scott loves the way he can avoid bigs by leaping from one side of the rim, soaring to the other and getting his shot off uncontested. As he continues to compare Irving to Chris Paul, Scott said that's one facet of Irving's game that Paul never polished simply because Irving has a better vertical and can hang in the air longer.
Irving has given Scott a couple of "ooh" and "aaah" moments, but it's going to take more than a couple nifty spin moves (like when he smoked Jazz center Al Jefferson on Tuesday) before Scott starts praising a rookie.
"I could hear it in the crowd, that was pretty good," Scott said of the move when Irving shot by Jefferson. "He has to do a little bit more than that, even though that was pretty good, he has to do a little bit more."
Scott rated Semih Erden's performance as "OK" and said it's unfair to judge him until he gets about 10 games in and gets his sea legs back.
Antawn Jamison has either been really hot or really cold this season. In Tuesday's loss to the Jazz he was both. But with so few scorers on the team, Scott said he has to live with the 7 of 22 nights and hope for the 9 of 14 shooting performances. But Scott said Jamison isn't forcing his shots and all of them have been good looks, so he can't really complain.
"That’s the crazy thing about it. It’s not like he’s forcing anything or taking real bad shots," Scott said. "He’s getting a lot of good looks, he’s just not knocking them down on a consistent basis."
The same goes for the Cavs' 3-point shooting the last two games. Against Portland and Utah, the Cavs made 7 of 44 3-point attempts. But Scott was primarily happy with the shot selections and said the Cavs missed all seven of their uncontested 3-pointers against the Jazz. If they hit those, they win the game.
Ramon Sessions and Alonzo Gee have both slipped off a bit on 3-pointers. Sessions, who leads the team in free throw attemps (41) and is shooting just 35 percent from the field, is 1 of 4 on 3-pointers in his last five games. He said the 3-point shot just hasn't been there for him lastely, but he still has the confidence to step into the shot and make it when the time is right.
Irving has made a couple nifty shots after spinning them high off the glass. Scott hasn't seen anyone perfect that shot since George "Iceman" Gervin. Scott said he was a rookie trying to defend Gervin, who would talk to him while the ball was in the air.
"He would throw it way up there, then talk to you while he was shooting," Scott said. "But he was apologetic: 'Don’t worry about it young fella, you gonna be all right. That was good defense.' He wasn't sweating, which was unbelievable, an smiling the whole time. 'Don't worry young fella, you're going to be all right. You're going to make it good in this league.'"