ORLANDO, FLA.: Kyrie Irving says he hasn’t made up his mind whether he’ll play for Australia during this summer’s Olympics, but he is feeling pressure from an old friend.
Mike Krzyzewski, Irving’s coach at Duke and head coach of Team USA, is encouraging Irving to stick with the Americans.
“He kind of gets on me for who to play for,” Irving said.
Krzyzewski wants Irving to stay home. If he indeed bypasses playing for Australia this year, Irving would be a strong candidate to play for the Americans during the 2016 Olympics. Krzyzewski is so high on Irving, one source at Duke said this week the coach would’ve pushed hard to add Irving to the candidate pool for Team USA had the Olympics been next summer rather than this summer.
Irving called his first All-Star weekend experience “overwhelming,” but handled questions from the international press in stride.
The foreign press kept asking him to give “shoutouts” into their cameras for the different homelands and Irving was quick to oblige.
A reporter from Iran asked Irving whether he would ever consider playing basketball in Iran. “Maybe if I could get out of my contract with Cleveland,” he joked.
Center of attention
When Carmelo Anthony entered the Orange Ballroom at the Hilton on Friday, he looked to his right and saw a mob of at least 50 reporters descending on Dwight Howard.
Perhaps it triggered a flashback to last season, when Anthony was bombarded with questions about his future in Denver during All-Star weekend.
“Thank you, Dwight!” Anthony shouted over reporters’ questions. “Your turn, it’s your turn, Dwight!”
Anthony sat at the table to Howard’s right, and LeBron James flanked him on the left. It was a fitting trio — two stars who recently bolted the teams that drafted them for larger markets and Howard, threatening to do the same, stuck in the middle.
Despite the ongoing trade demand, Howard is embracing his role as pseudo emcee of All-Star weekend. He has looked forward to this for two years, since Orlando received the nomination, and he isn’t going to let the ongoing saga of his future spoil all the fun.
“This is my city,” Howard said, adding that his duties this weekend are endless. “I don’t have a break. I want to show people how great our city is.”
Yet while continuing to call Orlando his city, he has asked the Magic to trade him. He didn’t want to talk about the trade demands Friday, batting away questions about his future with the ease of a true shot blocker.
“If it’s not about All-Star weekend,” he said, “I’m not talking about it.”
So everyone else spoke for him.
“I know exactly what he’s going through,” James said. “It’s a tough situation, but he’s a man and he’s going to handle it and do what’s best for him. At the end of the day, if he’s happy, he’s going to play at a high level.”
Anthony said James had the benefit of enduring his free agency saga during the summer, after the season had been completed. He and Howard have dealt with their contracts while playing for postseason contenders who are trying to win championships.
New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams got a taste of it before he was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Nets, but he didn’t endure anything like what Anthony and Howard have experienced.
“Until they push the trade deadline to before the All-Star break, this is how it’s always going to be,” Williams said. “All the media in the world at one time ganging up on him.”
Hanging in Akron
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant spent a few days in Akron over the summer and in the fall working out with James and even playing a little flag football.
Durant said he enjoyed his time in Akron.
“A lot of people asked me why I went there to work out, but I wanted to get better,” he said. “I think going up there and working with one of the best players in the world is something that helped me out. Anybody I can work with to get better and improve, I would’ve done it.”
As for the flag football game between James’ team and Durant’s team, James said he has already agreed to a rematch.
“He came to Akron first,” James said. “So I have to go to OKC for the rematch.”
The ties between Western Conference coach Scott Brooks and Eastern Conference coach Tom Thibodeau date back to 1990 and their time together with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Thibodeau was a young assistant then and Brooks was nearing the end of his career.
“He probably looked at me and thought I had no shot at playing in the NBA much longer than that year,” Brooks said. “And I looked at him like he had no shot of coaching in the NBA longer than that year. We were probably making jabs at each other not even knowing it.”
Of all the stars descending on this city for All-Star weekend, only one player warranted his own news conference — New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who is doing his best to stay grounded in the epicenter of Linsanity.
Of all the plays on words using his last name, Lin was asked whether he had a favorite.
“I just like Jeremy,” he said. “I want to make sure I don’t change as a person and that I don’t let any of this get to me.”
Lin acknowledged that his ancestry probably played a role in initially getting overlooked by the NBA.
“I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I’m going to have to prove myself more so again and again and again and some people may not believe it,” he said. “A lot of people say I’m deceptively athletic and deceptively quick and I’m not sure what’s deceptive.
‘‘But it could be the fact I’m Asian-American.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://cavs.ohio.com Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.