CHICAGO: Kyrie Irving had plenty of games against the league’s top point guards during his rookie season, but he never got the chance to play the best.
Injuries and bad timing prevented Irving from squaring off against Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
Rose was injured for the first meeting, Irving was ill when the Bulls returned to Cleveland in March and both guards were held out of Thursday night’s game for preventative measures. The Bulls held out Rose on Thursday because they were playing the second of a back-to-back, Rose has been battling injuries all season and their playoffs begin on Saturday. The Cavs held out Irving after coach Byron Scott warned him and everyone for the last week that Irving wasn’t a lock to play in all the games the rest of the season.
Both Rose and Irving were top overall picks, but Scott said there’s plenty of time for those two to go at each other.
“Everybody would’ve loved to have seen that matchup, especially in the middle part of the season, but it will [happen],” Scott said. “We’ve got next year. Both of those guys are really young. They’re going to be battling each other for a long time. I think next year will be pretty interesting.”
The first of many rookie awards came in for Irving this week when Sporting News named him its Rookie of the Year. League ballots for the official NBA award are due today and Irving is a lock to win, although there is no timetable for when the award is announced.
It is typically one of the first of the postseason awards and should be official within the next two weeks.
“Felt really good being able to work so hard this season and do the best I can on and off the court to be the best player and person I could be,” Irving said. “It’s a great thing for me. Until I officially win it, that’s when I’m going to celebrate. For now, it’s an honor to be picked by Sporting News.”
Irving finishes his rookie season averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists to become the sixth No. 1 overall pick to average at least 18 points and 5 assists in his rookie season. The others were Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and LeBron James.
“If I had to put his rookie year in one word, I would say fantastic,” Scott said. “I expected him to be good, but I don’t think anybody expected him to be as good as he was as early as he was. It was a fantastic season for Kyrie and there’s a lot to build on.”
D.J. Kennedy debuts
D.J. Kennedy made his NBA debut in Wednesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards and wound up leading the Cavs in minutes and scoring. He was in for another heavy dose in Thursday’s finale against the Bulls.
Only one problem — Scott never told Kennedy he’d be playing. He told the media, but not Kennedy, who was shocked when the coach hollered down the bench for him in the first quarter.
“It caught me off guard,” Kennedy said. “It’s exciting when you hear your named called down that bench. But once your adrenaline starts running, it’s just another game.”
Omri Casspi injured his knee in pregame warm-ups Thursday and was held out of the finale. It’s the first game Casspi missed, meaning no Cavs player appeared in all 66 games. Like Casspi, Antawn Jamison played in 65, Alonzo Gee 63 and Tristan Thompson 60.
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