Kyrie Irving: Cleveland’s Young Superstar

The past year has been huge for Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Irving entered last season with high hopes as he looked to lead the Cavs to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James departure in 2010. He averaged 20.8 points per game and was voted by fans into the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. In the All-Star game, Irving put his talents on display scoring 31 points with 14 assists and earning MVP honors. Despite Irving’s breakout success, the young Cavs continued to struggle, missing the playoffs and finishing in 10th place.

Credit to Creative Commons

Credit to Creative Commons

The Cavs began the 2014 offseason by firing head coach Mike Brown. After hiring David Blatt as the next head coach, one of the Cavaliers top priorities was to resign Irving. Owner, Dan Gilbert, and General Manager, flew to New York to negotiate a contract extension with Irving. The duo pitched him a plan to assemble a big three in Cleveland with the additions of James and Kevin Love. “Kyrie bought in,” said Griffin. “That started everything. It created the momentum.” Irving agreed to a five-year, $90 million maximum contract. Irving celebrated his max deal by tweeting a link to a Youtube video of himself dancing at his home. Ten days after Kyrie agreed to an extension, James announced his return to Cleveland. The Cavs completed the “Big 3” by trading former number one draft picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in August.

Irving is not only a star on the court, but is also a savy businessman. This past December, Nike announced Irving as their newest signature athlete along with his own signature shoe, the KYRIE 1. The deal made him the 20th basketball player to receive a signature shoe from Nike, joining the company of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and fellow Cavalier LeBron James.

Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in a Pepsi Max commercial. Credit to ufunk.net

Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in a Pepsi Max commercial.
Credit to ufunk.net

Some of Irving’s other endorsement deals have shown his comedic side. He teamed up with Pepsi Max for a series of webisodes where he plays as a character named “Uncle Drew.” In the commercials, Irving disguises himself as an old man and goes to local basketball courts to play pickup games. The ads have also co-starred his teammate Kevin Love and WNBA star, Maya Moore. This past November, Irving signed a deal to create more Uncle Drew webisodes with the intention of taking the character to the greater Pepsi brand. His funny antics continue in a new ad with Footlocker where he tries his hand at acting. In the commercial he is sitting with his friends talking about his signature shoe and the upcoming All-Star game, where he mentions that he recently guest-starred on Law and Order. Irving’s guest-spot shows him lying dead in a hospital bed, to which he responds to his friends, “It only took nine takes.” He followed up the commercial last weekend by posting a YouTube video of himself giving an Oscar acceptance speech for the ad. Irving even added in the “get off the stage music” and crowd applause.

As the Cavaliers are surging towards the playoffs, Irving doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He appeared in his third straight All-Star game a couple weeks ago and made it to the final round of the Foot Locker Three Point Contest. He is currently averaging 21 points per game with an average of 5.3 assists. On January 28, Irving scored a career-high 55 points and set a franchise record with eleven three-pointers. At only 22 years-old, it’s safe to say that Irving is Cleveland’s newest superstar.

My All-Star Journal

This weekend I realized a dream of mine by attending some of the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities in New York City. I started off my weekend at the Adidas store in SoHo on Friday afternoon. During my train ride into the city, I saw on Twitter that NBA legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be appearing at the store at 4:30. I arrived at the store about an hour and a half early to fight the crowds and ended up being the fifth person in line. After the long wait, Abdul-Jabbar arrived to a huge ovation. When it was my turn to meet the legend, I shook his hand and thanked him for the autograph.

NBA Legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar signs autographs at the Adidas store in SoHo on Friday, February 13.

NBA Legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar signs autographs at the Adidas store in SoHo on Friday, February 13.

My next stop was NBA House at Skylight at Moynihan Station down the street from Madison Square Garden. NBA House, formerly known as NBA Jam Session, is the NBA’s fan fest experience during All-Star weekend that includes games, giveaways, and appearances from past and present basketball players. I had tickets to the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. session. Upon walking into the venue the Sprite booth, caught my eye and I walked over only to be asked to freestyle rap for a free Sprite t-shirt. Even though I love rap, I have no lyrical talent so the workers told me I could just talk for thirty seconds. I talked about how I always wanted to come to this event and how the Cavaliers are my favorite team. After receiving the giveaway from Sprite, I walked over to the Kia display, where a line was forming to meet New Orleans Pelicans forward, Anthony Davis. I have followed Davis since his freshmen year at Kentucky in 2011. He is having a breakout year and is a strong candidate for the MVP, but sat out Sunday’s All-Star game due to a right shoulder sprain. I got in line with 45 minutes to go before he arrived and that time was quickly passed with games of NBA Trivia. The line to meet Davis was very large so fans were moved quickly through the line. As I received my autograph, I thanked Davis and told him to get well soon, which he thanked me for.

Anthony Davis signing autographs at NBA House on Friday, February 13.

Anthony Davis signing autographs at NBA House on Friday, February 13.

Next, I walked up a ramp into the larger part of NBA House. There I found various shooting contests and video game stations. There were also many giveaways including basketballs and mini-basketball hoops. At the main basketball court, Washington Wizards star, John Wall was running a shooting contest for children. Wall took the time to pose for pictures and sign some autographs for the kids, but quickly left once the contest was over. I sat in the bleachers at the main court and watched some other contests for the duration of the session.

Washington Wizards point guard, John Wall, at NBA House.

Washington Wizards point guard, John Wall, at NBA House.

The tickets prices for All-Star Saturday night and the All-Star game itself were very expensive. I found that the next best thing was the All-Star practice at Madison Square Garden on Saturday morning, where I met a couple of my friends. The practice started with the Western Conference All-Stars. Western Conference and Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr was a shooter in his playing days, so he spent most of his practice putting his team through shooting contests. At the conclusion of the West practice, West starter, Stephen Curry and East starter, John Wall, had a shooting contest to determine the best shooter. The contest consisted of trick shots where neither player made a shot until the final round. John Wall won the contest with a crossover and three pointer on actor, Michael Rapaport.

Before the Eastern Conference All-Stars took the court for practice, the crowd was treated to a performance from Norwegian duo, Nico & Vinz. They performed their hits, Am I Wrong, and “In Your Arms.”

After the short performance from Nico and Vinz, the East All-Stars took the floor for practice. Eastern Conference and Atlanta Hawks coach, Mike Budenholzer, took his practice more seriously and had his team run through sets. During one of the sets with the starters, Cavaliers star, LeBron James, threw down a huge reverse two handed slam.

The East squad ended practice with a half-court shot contest that included some lucky fans. During the contest, Hawks power forward, Paul Millsap, sank two half-court shots in a row. I thought the practice was a great time for an affordable price compared to other All-Star events.

After practice, I met another one of my friends at Macy’s to meet injured Indiana Pacers star, Paul George. To gain access into the signing you had to buy $50 worth of merchandise so I purchased an All-Star hoodie. After waiting in line for over an hour I was told that George would no longer sign the free pictures Macy’s provided and would only sign the merchandise we bought. I was annoyed at this because  a hoodie is not the ideal autograph item, but I was allowed to take pictures with the Pacers star. I shook his hand and wished him good luck on his comeback from the gruesome leg injury he suffered last August.

Indiana Pacers star, Paul George and I at Macy's Herald Square on Saturday, February 14.

Indiana Pacers star, Paul George and I at Macy’s Herald Square on Saturday, February 14.

I began the final day of All-Star weekend by attending NBA House at LIU Brooklyn’s Paramount Theatre. The NBA House in Brooklyn was a scaled down version of the one in Manhattan, but it contained many of the same games. The NBA championship trophy, the Larry O’Brien Trophy, was on display in the venue. NBA Legends AC Green and Muggsy Bogues made an appearance to coach some shooting contests on the main court. After the contest, I met Bogues and was able to snap a selfie with him. The rest of the session included more contests and apperances by the Philadelphia 76ers dance team and the Miami Heat mascot, Burnie.

Charlotte Hornets legend, Muggsy Bouges, and I at NBA House Brooklyn on Sunday, February 15.

Charlotte Hornets legend, Muggsy Bouges, and I at NBA House Brooklyn on Sunday, February 15.

Overall, I had an amazing time taking in the All-Star festivities this past weekend. I encourage any basketball fan to put this on their bucket list. The Cavaliers have mentioned that hosting the All-Star game is “on the radar for 2017 or 2018.” I am very hopeful that Cleveland will receive the bid for the game in the next few years due to the Cavs star power and the fact that the city will be hosting the Republican National Convention in 2016. However, there is one person who has said that he does not want Cleveland to host the game and that man is LeBron James. James was quoted in December saying “It would be too much for me. I think it would be great for us to host it, but hopefully I’m no good in that year if we get it.” LeBron is arguably the world’s most influential athlete in the world today and he would be a great host. The way I look at it is that if Carmelo Anthony can put off season-ending knee surgery and play in front of his hometown, then LeBron can overcome the emotional aspect and host for a city that loves him like a son.

Possible Trades Before the Deadline for the Cavs

Over the last month the Cavaliers went on a twelve game win streak and are finally showing signs of a contender in the Eastern Conference. If the Cavs are to compete for an NBA title this year, they must make a move to improve their bench. With the trade deadline less than a week away we take a look the players the Cavs could possibly target on February 19. General Manager, David Griffin has already made two trades in the last month that addressed serious holes in the roster. In the trade with the New York Knicks the Cavs got another offensive weapon in J.R. Smith and a wing defender in Iman Shumpert. The trade with the Denver Nuggets just two days later saw the Cavs finally acquire a rim protector, Timofey Mozgov. If the Cavs make a deal at the deadline, do not expect any big name players to come our way. Cleveland has enough star power and needs to focus on adding depth on the bench. The Cavs need a solid point guard to back up Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers could also use a back up center. The following is a list of the top seven players that the Cavaliers have been linked to or that are on the trading block. The players on this list may not be the flashiest, but they are solid bench players.

7.Robert Sacre-Center

Creative Commons

The Cavaliers had interest in Robert Sacre before Anderson Varejo went down with a season ending, Achilles injury. Sacre has never been much of an offensive player as he is averaging 4.3 points per game. However, it is Sacre’s defense and energy off the bench that is appealing to the Cavs. Sacre is listed as 7 feet tall, making him a true center. The Cavaliers could definitely use someone of Sacre’s size to back up Timofey Mozgov, but I believe they can do better.

 

6.Luke Ridnour-Point Guard

Creative Commons

Luke Ridnour is a veteran point guard that the Cavs may have interest in. Ridnour’s numbers have been down in the past few seasons. Two years ago he averaged 11.5 points per game and this season he is only averaging 4.0 points per game. Even though his numbers aren’t great, Ridnour has been to the playoffs three times with three different teams. He is a veteran player with postseason experience, which is a piece the Cavaliers could always use. However, I do not see this deal happening because there are better options out there.

5.Ryan Hollins

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Ryan Hollins is another big man on the trading block that the Cavs could target. Hollins played for the Wine and Gold for two seasons from 2010-2012. During his time with the Cavs, Hollins had some of the highest rebounding marks of his career. He is having a slow year production wise with a struggling Sacramento Kings team, but perhaps if traded to a franchise he is already familiar with he can raise his stats. I think Hollins will get moved at the deadline, but I think the Cavs will only trade for him if they are out of options.

4.Raymond Felton-Point Guard

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Raymond Felton is a journeyman point guard who may be moved at the trade deadline. Felton has seen limited playing time for the Dallas Mavericks this year behind Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis. Felton is a veteran guard who has some playoff experience and was the starting point guard for the Knicks for a few seasons. In New York, Felton spent two seasons with current Cavs players, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Bringing in Felton would be smart because he has past chemistry with Shumpert and Smith. However, I do not expect the Cavaliers to land Felton because Dallas is a playoff contender. Dallas’ will want more for Felton than just Brendan Haywood and a late second round draft pick.

3.Miles Plumlee-Center/Forward

Suns forward, Miles Plumlee.

In my opinion, Miles Plume is one of the more intriguing names on this list. Plumlee is a young, athletic big man who is averaging 4.3 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Phoenix Suns. The Cavs have shown interest in Plumlee since January, but ultimately traded for Timofey Mozgov. Plumlee would be a welcome addition defensively, but Phoenix’s asking price for him is very high. Unless Phoenix changes it’s stance, it is unlikely this deal will happen.

2.Norris Cole-Point Guard

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One of the more exciting names on this list is Norris Cole. Cole is a third-year point guard out of Cleveland State and is a former teammate of Lebron James. Cole is averaging 6.3 points per game this season and is seen as more of a defensive threat. The Cavs have already significantly improved their defense and would like to add a guard who could put some points on the board. I think Norris Cole is a good player and his youth is an advantage, but he is not the right fit offensively.

1.Jameer Nelson-Point Guard

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Out of all of the players mentioned on this list, I think Jameer Nelson of the Denver Nuggets is the best fit for the Cavaliers. Nelson has many of the qualities that the Cavs need in a point guard. He is known more for his offense than his defense. With an already stacked defense, Nelson’s average of 7.5 points per game would provide a nice spark off the bench. Nelson also has playoff experience including an appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals. Most importantly, the Cavs could acquire him for very cheap. The Nuggets are likely to be in a fire sale next week and the Cavaliers could make the deal without having to give much up.

My bold prediction for the trade deadline is that the Cavs will trade Brendan Haywood and a draft pick to the Denver Nuggets for Jameer Nelson.

Hello Cleveland!

The goal of this blog is to provide you with the latest news involving Cleveland sports. This website will feature content covering the Cavaliers, Indians, and Browns. Occasionally I will also write about national sports stories. This site will also feature original video and podcast content from sporting events. Being a Cleveland native and diehard fan of all three teams, I am very excited to begin this new journey. My goal after I graduate is to return to the city I love and host my own sports talk show. I believe this blog will be a great stepping stone to achieving this dream. Thank you for visiting my blog and enjoy!

Jeff Lansky

Quicken Loans Arena. June 2007. Photo Credit:Allyson Newell

Quicken Loans Arena. June 2007. Photo Credit:Allyson Newell