HOUSTON: Kyrie Irving conceded he has amazed even himself with the type of impact he has already made on the NBA. He is amazing the rest of the league, too.
Irving won the 3-point contest on All-Star Saturday night, scoring 23 points in the final round to fall two points shy of the event’s record. Irving surpassed his best practice round at Cleveland Clinic Courts when the best round he could muster was a 22.
Irving made 14 of his first 15 shots in the final round, which even brought LeBron James out of his chair with a fist pump and yell when Irving’s remarkable round was over.
Irving considered himself a darkhorse in the event and said last week he thought he could surprise some people. Then he went out and missed just five shots in the final round to defeat the San Antonio Spurs’ Matt Bonner and continue his remarkable run.
Irving has only played 93 games in the NBA and has surprised even himself.
“When I’m alone and I’m watching SportsCenter or NBA TV, it’s a surreal moment,” Irving said. “I do have some surreal moments at times. It’s a blessing and an honor to be recognized as one of the great players in the league.”
The Rising Stars MVP and Rookie of the Year from last season, Irving is again taking over All-Star weekend. He dazzled in the Rising Stars game again Friday with his crossover skills, then scored 18 points in the first round Saturday before really catching fire in the second round — and he still has Sunday’s actual All-Star Game left.
He is the second Cavaliers player to win the contest after Mark Price won it in 1993 and 1994 and his final-round score was just shy of the 25 points scored by both Craig Hodges (1986) and Jason Kapono (2008).
Irving is shooting .425 on 3-pointers to rank 13th in the league. He has made 82 3-pointers, which is little more than half of Steph Curry’s total of 149. Curry, however, did not advance beyond the first round. Irving considers himself a better shooter off the dribble than a catch-and-shoot type of player. On this night, he was just fine as a set shooter.
“I just wanted to go out and prove a point that I was one of the premiere shooters out here with all these guys,” Irving said. “Steve Novak and Matt Bonner, I never thought I’d beat those guys.”
Irving now has bragging rights over Cavs coach Byron Scott. Irving was ruthless on Scott for the last week over Scott’s third-place finish in the 3-point contest in 1988. Irving said he’d have little trouble topping that finish and refused to take advice from his coach because he wouldn’t take advice from a third-place finisher.
“I can now give myself my own advice,” Irving said.
Cavs to submit All-Star bid
The Cavaliers are expected to submit a proposal to bring the NBA All-Star Game back to Cleveland during either the 2016 or 2017 season, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert told the Beacon Journal.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver visited Cleveland last week to explore the feasibility of bringing the All-Star Game back to the city and encouraged the Cavs to bid on a future game.
The All-Star Game was last in Cleveland in 1997, when the league assembled the 50 greatest players of all time.
“We had a great experience when we were there in ’97,” Silver said. “We would love to return to Cleveland.”
And Gilbert would love to have them.
“The league is very receptive and open to it,” Gilbert said. “As soon as this [All-Star weekend] is over, we’ll start talking more seriously about it.
“The city would be unreal. It would be a great weekend.”
Silver met with Gilbert and his staff last Friday. One of the questions that must be answered is whether the city has enough available hotel rooms to accommodate the event, which has grown considerably in the last 16 years since Cleveland hosted. Gilbert didn’t have the numbers in front of him and doesn’t know yet if the city has the proper accommodations. But since the game wouldn’t come for another three or four years, Gilbert is confident the city would be ready.
Next year’s game is slated for New Orleans and Silver confirmed Saturday both the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have submitted proposals already for 2015. Silver said it was likely the game is headed to one of the two New York venues in two years.
Gilbert would like to have the second phase of his casino open before an All-Star Game. There is no timeline for the second phase to open, but Gilbert said there is a meeting next month to address the progress.
With the new medical mart and convention center coming, Gilbert thinks Cleveland would be a great host city.
“I’d say this is a major initiative,” Gilbert said.
Commissioner David Stern, who is retiring next February, called that moment his second-favorite All-Star memory behind only awarding Magic Johnson the Most Valuable Player award following the 1992 game, after Johnson retired because of the HIV virus.
“As the executive producer of that moment, that is a close second [to Johnson’s MVP game],” Stern said of the ’97 game in Cleveland. “To get those 49 guys, and we knew it was the last time we were ever going to get them together like that, and to put them in a jacket of the team that they represented, that was a big thrill, too.”
Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross beat defending champion Jeremy Evans to win the slam-dunk contest during All-Star Saturday night.
The 6-foot-6 Ross jumped over a ball boy, whipped the ball between his legs and threw down a one-handed slam to clinch the victory. Earlier, Ross donned a Vince Carter jersey, took a lob from high-school teammate Terrence Jones off the edge of the backboard, spun in the air, and then slammed home another one-hander.
Evans jumped over a painted portrait of himself and hurdled Dallas Mavericks forward Dahntay Jones for a dunk in his final round.
Ross earned 58 percent of the fan vote in the championship round.
Portland Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard beat Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday in the final round to win the Skills Competition during All-Star Saturday Night.
The competition involves players navigating a dribbling circuit, taking a 3-point shot, hitting targets with passes and driving for a layup. Lillard swished his first 3-point attempt in his winning run and finished the obstacle course in 29.8 seconds. Holiday’s time was 35.6 seconds.
Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin and defending champion Tony Parker also were in the field, but didn’t come close to qualifying for the championship round.
Earlier, a team of Chris Bosh, Swin Cash and Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars competition, beating the trio of Russell Westbrook, Maya Moore and Robert Horry.