MIAMI: LeBron James is paying close attention to Kyrie Irving’s development this season, but said Tuesday he doesn’t believe the Cavs rookie should feel any pressure in trying to replace him as the star of the Cavs.
“They’re in a rebuilding stage right now. I don’t think he has any pressure,” James said. “Pressure is created when you do things at a high level. He’s going to continue to do things at a high level, that’s just the player he is. Coach Scott has given him the starting job for a reason. He’s going out and proving why he should be the starter.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Irving “special” and “unique” and compared him to Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, James’ close friend and a former player under Cavs coach Byron Scott, who has also has made that comparison all season.
“You can see his skill set, his ball handling is above what you’d normally see,” Spoelstra said. “He’s looking at second layer, third layer, fourth layer when young players are usually looking at that first layer and that’s all they can handle. He’s quick, but he never looks like he’s in a hurry.”
Scott praised Irving’s defense during Monday’s practice session and said Tuesday once the defense is straightened out, he’ll go to work next trying to correct the turnovers. Irving entered Tuesday’s game against the Heat with at least six turnovers in two of the last three games.
Irving ranks fifth in the league among point guards in turnovers, averaging 3.6 per game. The Cavs began the night third in the league in turnovers at 16.8 per game.
“He has to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Scott said. “We want to run and sometimes when you run you have to accept a certain amount of turnovers. But when it’s not there, you have to be smart enough to bring it out and just run the offense.”
Daniel Gibson was back in the lineup after a family member on his father’s side died unexpectedly because of complications from a staph infection. Gibson said he did not return to Houston, his hometown, but consoled his grieving cousins and aunt.
He missed Saturday’s game against the Hawks because of the death, but said he would not leave the team to attend the funeral. He would only go if it happened to fall on a Cavs’ off day and the Cavs will likely be off Thursday following the back-to-back games against the Heat and Knicks.
There remains a slim chance Baron Davis could make his season debut tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, but it doesn’t sound very likely.
Davis returned to practice with the Knicks this week and coach Mike D’Antoni, perhaps in an effort to save his job, said Davis shouldn’t be ruled out for tonight’s game against the Cavs.
But then Davis participated in a 3-on-3 scrimmage later Tuesday that didn’t go so well and left the point guard pessimistic about his chances of playing against his former team.
“I would love to play,” Davis told New York writers. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
The Cavs waived Davis under their amnesty clause prior to the season. They still owe him $24 million.
Scott said Christian Eyenga was recalled from the Development League primarily because the Cavs were thin on wing players due to Anthony Parker’s lower back injury. Scott wants to limit Parker’s practice minutes in order to save him for games.
“Everybody knows I went there to work on my defense,” Eyenga said. “I was just focused on defense. I think I did OK.”
Gibson spent a good part of the lockout working out with Heat rookie Norris Cole, who attended Cleveland State and remained in the Cleveland area during the NBA’s labor dispute. … Rookie Tristan Thompson’s sprained left ankle leaves him questionable for tonight’s game against the Knicks. … The Cavs have held the No. 1 overall pick in the draft four times in their history. Three of them were in AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday – Irving, James and television analyst Austin Carr. The only one missing was Brad Daugherty.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.