LAS VEGAS: Kyrie Irving is excited about the additions made to the Cavaliers roster this summer and said Monday he is happy to be in Cleveland.
Irving, who will have the opportunity to sign an extension with the Cavs next summer, dismissed a report last week from a New York-based radio host that he is anxious to get out of Cleveland.
“I’m a Cavalier right now, I’m happy to be a Cavalier,” Irving said. “I kind of had a sarcastic approach to [the report] because it was a rumor starter. I don’t think he knows anybody in my camp and I don’t know who the guy is. That type of stuff I don’t pay any attention to. Right now I’m a Cleveland Cavalier and I’m happy to be here.”
Irving, along with Cavs teammates Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, is back in Vegas this week for a USA Basketball minicamp. It is just the latest stop on what has been a whirlwind summer for Irving. He returned to Australia in July for the first time since his early childhood days, he has been to Las Vegas a couple of times already and he spent last week back on the campus of Duke.
The last time Irving spoke with the Cleveland media was immediately following the regular season, when he seemed down over the firing of Byron Scott. Irving went so far as to say he felt like he had lost his basketball father.
“I’m over it,” Irving said Friday. “We’re all entitled to have emotions on it. At the time, I was disappointed Coach Scott had left. I’ve turned the next page and I’m looking forward to developing a new relationship with Coach Brown and our coaching staff.”
Irving sounded intrigued by some of Mike Brown’s ideas for next season, which include playing him off the ball at times at shooting guard when Jarrett Jack is on the floor.
Brown wants to see Irving come off screens more – something he rarely did during his first two years in the league – to take better advantage of his shooting skills.
Brown said last week that Waiters will be a shooting guard exclusively this season in part because of his athleticism.
Brown wants him to get out and run in transition rather than always circling back and looking for the ball.
In all, Irving sounded genuinely excited about the additions the Cavs made this summer after two seasons of constant losing, and believes the Cavs have positioned themselves as playoff contenders.
‘Growing up to do’
He was dismal at the end of last season. He didn’t seem as engaged on the court, he distanced himself from Scott and he took sharp criticism both privately and publicly for failing to participate in the team’s fan appreciation night on the court following the final home game.
“I had some growing up to do this summer and that’s what I’m doing,” Irving said. “Just trying to develop myself as a person and a basketball player.”
He mentioned being a leader a couple of times on Monday and demonstrated it a few weeks ago when he rounded up a number of teammates for impromptu workout sessions in Las Vegas prior to the start of summer league.
Irving, Waiters, Zeller and C.J. Miles joined a handful of summer league roster players for some scrimmages and workouts. Irving came up with the idea all on his own, a team source said, and the rest of the players were happy to join him.
As for this week’s minicamp, a Team USA source, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcements have been made yet, said Irving is nearly a lock to be part of the 2014 FIBA World Cup team that will compete in Spain next summer.
The Team USA source said no official invitations will be extended for the FIBA World Cup team until after this NBA season, so Team USA officials will have more time to evaluate the league’s young talent.
From there, Irving is one of the few out of this week’s class of 28 players expected to challenge for a spot on the Olympic team that competes in 2016 in Brazil. The purpose of these types of minicamp is to serve as a feeder system for upcoming international games.
“It’s not just for the next team,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “As you get to know these guys, you track their careers. There may be other things in the future. A guy who is 23 or 22 here, at 26, he’s going to be a different player. It has been a good formula for us to have a fluid pool of players. It has worked out well. We’re not going to change it.”