By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Kyrie Irving’s up-and-down season trended upward again Monday when he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on the same day Nike unveiled a shoe in his honor.
Irving averaged 29 points, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals and the Cavaliers went 2-1 last week. Their only loss was to the Miami Heat after rallying from 19 points behind to take a brief lead in the fourth quarter.
Irving has battled a low shooting percentage most of the season, but shot .508 last week, including .409 on 3-pointers. He had the highest field-goal percentage among all players in the East who averaged at least 21 points for the week.
“He deserves it. He put up some big numbers for us,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He was aggressive, especially at the right times, for us.”
Brown thought the best part of the award came during the week the Cavs won two out of three. After a terrible start to the season, the Cavs have won three of their past four games and five of their past seven to pull within a half-game of the eighth seed and one game of the fourth seed in the muddled and mediocre Eastern Conference playoff race.
“He can get a lot of accolades. He has a chance to be that good. He has special talents,” Brown said. “The neat part about it is, can he continue to find ways to attain those accolades while the team is winning? When that happens, to me, it’s very meaningful.”
The Cavs have the opportunity for another winning week. They’ll face the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers at home tonight, but then get the struggling Milwaukee Bucks at home on Friday and the fading Chicago Bulls on the road Saturday.
The Blazers are the surprise of the Western Conference through the first six weeks of the season. Their 21-4 mark is the best in the powerful West and LaMarcus Aldridge has evolved into a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate. Like Irving, he was named the Player of the Week in the West on Monday.
Tristan Thompson said Blazers coach Terry Stotts has tweaked the offense to get Aldridge into more pick-and-pop scenarios and he’s flourishing. Aldridge had 31 points and 25 rebounds last week against the Houston Rockets and is the first NBA player since 2004 to amass 450 points, 200 rebounds and 25 steals in his team’s first 20 games.
“He’s playing at an MVP caliber right now,” Thompson said. “He’s getting rough in the paint. He’s dunking on guys and getting to the free-throw line a lot. He got better over the summer.”
As for Irving, Nike officially unveiled its Zoom HyperRev on Monday, which the shoe giant said was developed “with the speed and quickness of phenom point guard Kyrie Irving top-of-mind.”
Irving doesn’t have his own Nike shoe line yet like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but the Zoom HyperRev would seem to be a step in that direction. The shoe appears on Nike’s website in two color schemes — a black-and-white model and in the Cavs’ wine and gold.
Irving has tested the shoes during practices, but has yet to wear them in a game. The shoe was designed by Leo Chang, who also created Durant’s KD VI that launched last summer. The HyperRev will be available to the public at Nike.com and at select retail locations on Jan. 1.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.