LOS ANGELES: In the coming weeks, Cavaliers rookie Kyrie Irving will have a big decision to make. The repercussions from it could follow him the rest of his career.
Irving was born in Australia while his father, Drederick, played professional basketball there, and as a result has dual citizenship. He has publicly flirted with the idea of playing for Australia in the 2012 London Olympics and reiterated Friday he hasn’t made up his mind.
“Still haven’t decided,” Irving said. “Really it will come down to whether or not I want to give up my whole summer.”
It also comes down to his future intentions with Team USA, which just so happens to be led by his old college coach, Mike Krzyzewski. If Irving plays with Australia this summer, he would likely be ineligible to ever play with the Americans.
As it stands, Irving still has to be cleared by FIBA before he could play with Australia since he was part of the United States’ U-18 team last year. Irving said Friday he thought it was only a matter of paperwork, and if he chose to play with Australia, it wouldn’t be much of an issue.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was surprised to hear of Irving’s dual citizenship and opportunity to play with Australia, but said this isn’t the type of decision to make quickly or flippantly. While Irving isn’t under consideration for Team USA this summer, if he continues to progress as expected, he would likely be a strong candidate to play for the United States in 2016.
Scott said he would counsel Irving not to rush into a decision he might later regret.
“For a 19-year-old, that’s a big decision,” Scott said. “He obviously needs to get as much advice as he can from a lot of people that he trusts and believes in. I know he talks to Chris Paul and Grant Hill and guys like that [former Olympians]. I would seek their advice. Talk to his dad. I don’t think it’s something he’s going to take lightly and it’s something he should make sure he takes his sweet time on.”
Australia earned an automatic qualification for Olympic basketball by winning FIBA’s Oceania Championship in September. Olympic basketball begins July 28 and continues until Aug. 12 this summer.
Comparing the greats
Former Cavs coach Mike Brown has coached two of the greatest players of this generation, first with LeBron James and now Kobe Bryant. Brown said comparing the two is difficult, because their games are as different as their personalities.
Brown said James’ court vision is comparable to Magic Johnson’s and his strength is the pick-and-roll game. Bryant’s strength is in his post-up game, either off the high post or at the elbow. As for their personalities?
“LeBron is a guy who likes to have fun, he likes to joke around and have people around him,” Brown said. “Kobe, not so much. He has fun in his own ways, but his approach is more businesslike. That’s not a negative, it’s just personalities.”
Speaking of Bryant, his divorce could cost him more than $75 million, legal experts told the Los Angeles Times last week. The contract extension he signed last year was worth $83.5 million, Forbes reported his endorsement deals last year totaled at least $53 million and financial experts have pegged his net worth at something north of $150 million.
The marriage lasted 10 years, which under California law means Vanessa Bryant is entitled to half of Bryant’s fortune in order to maintain her standard of living.
In a year when the draft class was projected to be worse than normal, only the Cavs’ Irving is a consistent starter among the 30 players who were selected in the first round. Just three weeks into the season, he has to be considered the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
At least four sources polled within the league, including Scott, believe the shortage of rookie starters is more a product of the NBA lockout and abbreviated training camps than a lack of talent within the class.
The Detroit Pistons’ Brandon Knight and the New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert have started about half of their team’s games. The rest of the rookies entered the weekend with two or three starts or fewer, and the majority haven’t started a game at all.
That’s true of the second, third and fourth picks — the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams, the Utah Jazz’s Enes Kanter and the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson. Most players drafted that high are immediate starters, but not this year.
“Without a training camp, I’m not surprised,” Phoenix Suns television analyst and former Cavs player Scott Williams said. “A lot of these coaches are saying ‘We don’t have a lot of time to teach in a training camp situation. I need players that know what we’re doing when we’re out on the floor.’ It’s going to take some time for them to learn the system. They don’t want to shake [the rookies’] confidence early.”
The Boston Celtics are struggling in this condensed season, and whispers are already mounting that maybe age is finally catching up with them. They dropped three in a row to fall to 4-6 after 10 games. Of greater concern might be Paul Pierce, who looks to have rushed back from a heel injury before he was ready. Pierce isn’t panicking, but he concedes the heel isn’t right and might not be for a while.
“You’re going to go through adversity or stuff, I’d rather have it right now,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Like I told our guys, ‘If you get through this, it’ll make you a hell of a basketball team.’ ”
Who’s this guy?
Lamar Odom has struggled in his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, but insists he isn’t still grieving the trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. Odom is playing less than 20 minutes a night and averaging 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“When I’m not doing a good job, you tell me about it and you write about it, it makes no difference,” Odom said. “The last couple of years, I took a lot of pride in preparing myself to play at a high level, but sometimes things happen in life. Basketball is a humbling game.”
Lakers fans were chanting for Ron Artest — sorry, Metta World Peace – during the second half of Friday’s game against the Cavs.
“We all want World Peace,” one scout quipped as the fans chanted. “Hell, I’m sure Cleveland wants World Peace right now, too.”
Artest, or Peace, has tumbled from starter to reserve to a nonparticipant in just 13 games with Mike Brown.
Call it a comeback
Rasheed Wallace is considering a comeback, according to Yahoo! Sports. Wallace, 37, retired in 2010, but is thinking about returning with a contender. Now the only question is whether any contenders have interest in a mercurial forward who has been retired for 18 months.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.