CLEVELAND: The talk between Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving was bold over the summer, when video of the two discussing a $50,000 bet over a game of one-on-one went viral. But neither side has committed to facing the other in a pickup game that would surely draw national interest.
“Him challenging me to a one-on-one game, he’s confident or crazy, one or the other,” Bryant said Tuesday morning prior to the Cavaliers’ game against the Los Angeles Lakers. “He said he needed to get his money up a little bit and he was going to play me, but he doesn’t want that problem.”
Despite the trash talk, Bryant has a deep respect for Irving’s game that was fostered during their time together over the summer with Team USA. Bryant was a member of the Olympic basketball team, while Irving was part of the Select team that scrimmaged the Americans daily for about a week.
“He works extremely hard and I was really impressed with him,” Bryant said of Irving. “He really came to play.
“A lot of kids grow up not really believing in themselves, but he seems to believe in himself. Whether it comes from where he comes from or just his character or how he’s built or a combination of his work ethic … he has that.”
Bryant and Cavs coach Byron Scott were teammates during Bryant’s rookie season, when Scott served as his mentor. Bryant told Scott then he wanted to be the best player in the NBA, and Scott has often said he isn’t surprised Bryant is in that conversation, based on his work ethic.
As for how Bryant and Irving compare at this point in their careers, Scott said Bryant was more serious.
“Kyrie has a little bit more playfulness than Bean Bryant did. That’s probably the biggest difference,” Scott said. “But I think Kyrie does want to be great. It just depends on, ‘What are you willing to do to get there?’ ”
Dion Waiters is still out with a sprained left ankle, and Scott continues to insist he must practice first before he will insert Waiters into a game. If he holds firm to that, Waiters won’t return to the lineup until next Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors.
Due to the way the schedule falls, the Cavs aren’t expected to hold another practice until Monday.
Waiters has already missed five games with the ankle injury and isn’t expected to travel with the team to Indianapolis for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, but Scott wouldn’t say if Waiters has missed more time than he initially expected.
“Everybody is different with ankle injuries,” Scott said. “Some guys it’s a week, some guys it’s three, some guys it’s four or five days. It just depends on the severity of the ankle.”
Antawn Jamison made his return to Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday, but he still keeps in contact with his old teammates. Jamison said he still speaks with Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee, Andy Varejao and assistant coach Jamahl Mosley at least once a month.
He is particularly close to Samardo Samuels after the two spent two months working out together over the summer near Jamison’s home in Charlotte, N.C.
“These were my brothers for 2½ years,” Jamison said. “I want these guys to be successful here. I know they’ve got a great young nucleus and a great coaching staff that will do anything possible and these fans deserve it. I pull for them. I watch the games when I can. I want them to turn things around.”