NEW ORLEANS: The four-game winning streak is nice, but Kyrie Irving believes the team meeting the players held after General Manager Chris Grant was fired is a big reason the Cavs are playing looser and enjoying the game again.
The Cavs actually held a couple of meetings after Grant was fired, including one in which acting GM David Griffin addressed the team and another in which owner Dan Gilbert spoke to the players. But Irving said it was a meeting in which players aired their grievances that helped clean what was becoming a toxic locker room.
“We had a great team meeting and got a lot off our chest, things that needed to be said,” Irving said Friday during All-Star interviews. “I think it started a little bit of a change in our locker room.”
Irving said he is back to enjoying the game again, back to trusting teammates and believing in each other. All of it was initially lost amid the pressure to win this season.
“Some of us put too much pressure on ourselves, including me. I put the burden all on my shoulders,” Irving said. “I feel like once my teammates saw me let everything go and be free, everyone can do that.
“These last five or six games we’ve seen a change and hopefully we can keep it up.”
Dion Waiters had 31 points and seven assists in Team Hill’s 142-136 victory in Friday’s Rising Stars game.
Waiters shot 10-for-14, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, as Grant Hill’s team beat Chris Webber’s team.
Waiters lost out on the game’s Most Valuable Player award to the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond, his teammate for a day.
Drummond had 30 points and 25 rebounds.
Durant or LeBron?
Irving was asked Friday if the NBA All-Star Game was like the Pro Bowl, in which players are selected by captains, who would Irving select with the first pick? He briefly debated between LeBron James and Kevin Durant before settling on Durant.
“He’s shooting from everywhere now. Just throw him the ball, he’s on fire,” Irving said. “They’re both talented. If you get the chance to choose one, I don’t think you could go wrong.”
David Stern, who retired as NBA commissioner two weeks ago, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame and will be enshrined with the Class of 2014 on Aug. 8 in Springfield, Mass.
Former Cavs guard Kevin Johnson is among the finalists for the hall, along with Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Spencer Haywood. The entire hall of fame class will be revealed during the Final Four.
Stern was a direct election by the contributors committee. Other direct elections were Lithuanian star Sarunas Marciulionis, former Knicks player Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, former Temple star Guy Rodgers and former Pacers coach Bob “Slick” Leonard.
Former Ohio State coach Gary Williams joins other longtime college coaches Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson as finalists.
LeBron James said he considered Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant for his much-discussed mythical Mount Rushmore. James made news recently when he chose Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson as his four faces for basketball’s Mount Rushmore.
“There needs to be another mountain built,” James said. “There’s too many guys. I was definitely thinking about Kobe as a top-four of all time, thinking about Kareem for sure. There’s so many greats that played this game.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.