CHARLOTTE, N.C.: It took long enough, but if the opener Wednesday is any indication, Kyrie Irving better get used to life as a target.
The Brooklyn Nets brought constant double teams at Irving throughout the game, which is perhaps part of the reason he struggled through a 4-for-16 shooting performance.
“That’s only going to continue,” Irving said Friday. “I expect teams to try and get the ball out of my hands.”
It’s a bit surprising more teams didn’t go to it sooner, but Irving never seemed to endure too many double teams through his first two years in the league. Now that Irving is establishing himself as a rising star, Cavs coach Mike Brown said balancing the floor correctly will be important in overcoming double teams.
“He’s not always going to be able to beat teams off the dribble, so we have to make sure our floor is spaced correctly and we know exactly where our outlets are,” Brown said. “Then once that ball gets moved, we’re able to take advantage of our opponents’ defense. It’s going to be an adjustment period for all of us going forward. He’s that talented, he’s that good to where he can command a double team, especially late in ball games.”
Brown conceded that he was tempted to go back to Jarrett Jack in the closing minutes but stuck with Irving and Dion Waiters. That could change in the future. Brown made it clear his closing lineup will be fluid all season.
“Sometimes it could be C.J. [Miles] out there at small forward, sometimes it could be Alonzo [Gee]. Sometimes it may be Dion and Jack and Kyrie out there. The versatility of this team is one of the things that’s exciting. We’ll probably make use of it on a nightly basis.”
Irving said it was his idea to cast Nate Robinson in the third installment of his hit Uncle Drew series, but it was Pepsi Max’s idea to add Maya Moore. Irving wrote her in as a protective older sister to Robinson’s “Lights” character after toying with the idea of making them husband and wife.
“It made it too uncomfortable for them,” Irving said.
He clearly has put a lot of thought into the characters. He said Moore is not part of the “team” the Uncle Drew character is reassembling.
“It’s impossible. We didn’t play high school together,” Irving said. “Females were not playing when Uncle Drew back then was coming out.”
Irving said he would like to someday re-enter the Skills Competition to redeem his poor effort from his rookie season, but right now he’s focusing on the 3-point contest. He won it last year and is already thinking about defending his title.
“I’m going for Larry Bird’s record,” he said. Bird won the first three competitions in the 1980s.
A slam-dunk contest, however, probably isn’t in Irving’s future. He can dunk, although he rarely does, but he said he’s lost some hops the last couple of years with all the injuries.
“I haven’t really been dunking since high school,” Irving said. “Mainly because of the rushing of coming back from my [toe] injury when I was in college. I never really got my legs back after that.
“I had a little bit of hops in high school. Now it’s more just being efficient, getting there and finishing.”
The game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday was the first time brothers Tyler and Cody Zeller played against each other in an actual game.
Cody Zeller was selected fourth overall by the Bobcats in June’s draft, but older brother Tyler still has his place in Charlotte following his days playing at the University of North Carolina.
Charlotte is predominantly composed of Tar Heel fans, which was proven again Thursday when the three Zeller boys (including oldest brother Luke) went to dinner. A little girl came up and recognized Tyler from his days with the Tar Heels, but didn’t know who Cody was.
“We were giving him a hard time for that,” Tyler said.
Both men did their best to downplay what will likely be the first of many, many meetings in the NBA.
“We’re both role players,” Tyler said. “If we were the stars on our team, it might be a little different going against each other. But we just need to go out and do our jobs.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.