Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was talking rather generically about top draft picks Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, but a quick comment within his answer spoke volumes.
“Kyrie,” Scott said Monday at the team’s annual media day, “has a chance to be a superstar.”
The Cavs have only practiced five times over the last four days and don’t play their first preseason game until Friday in Detroit, but the
19-year-old Irving, taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, has made a great first impression.
“He can play — simple, point blank,” veteran guard Daniel Gibson said. “I just like his pace and his tempo.”
“Kyrie is very talented,” said center Anderson Varejao. “He can go to the basket, he can shoot and he’s athletic. He’s got moves. He’s a smart point guard.
“It’s never easy to come into the league and do it all your first year, but he can really help us. I believe he is going to do a good job for us.”
Irving, who played in just 11 games as a Duke freshman because of an injury to his big toe, has been thrust to the forefront even more due to the absence of fellow point guard Baron Davis.
Davis, who is expected to be waived through the amnesty clause by the Friday deadline, has yet to practice and is not even with the team, as he left town with the organization’s permission to seek a second opinion on his ailing lower back.
“If B.D. is not here or not playing in the preseason or regular season, it obviously gives (Irving) more responsibility,” Scott said. “But I’m still not quite sure if I’m just going to hand him the ball as of right now.”
It will be surprising if Scott doesn’t do that sooner rather than later — if not immediately.
The rebuilding Cavs went 19-63 a season ago, Irving is the future of the franchise and the 66-game 2011-12 season will be all about development and improvement.
“If they do say that, it will be a great experience just knowing they have trust in me to be the point guard,” Irving said of starting right off the bat. “But also, we have a lot of other guards on the team who can contribute on the court. Right now, it’s only training camp. We’ll see how it goes on Friday (in Detroit).”
Despite his age, Irving is already a fairly polished young man, on and off the court. In interviews, he almost always uses a reporter’s question within his response so as to speak in complete sentences. On the court, he can shoot, penetrate and create and has looked fairly solid on defense in practices.
“He’s pretty good,” Scott said. “One thing about Kyrie right now, each day he gets a little more comfortable with what we’re doing. Each day he shows me a little something special. The first day, it might have been one thing. (Sunday) night, it was five or six things. He’s progressing very nicely.”
Irving, though, is levelheaded enough not to get too far ahead of himself. Right now, he’s focusing on the next practice, with an eye toward the exhibition game against the Pistons. Next will be the regular season, which opens Dec. 26 against Toronto at Quicken Loans Arena. Everything after that will take care of itself.
“The biggest adjustment for me will be the pace of the game,” the 6-foot-3, 191-pounder said. “I have to get used to it as much as possible.
“What I’ve learned from Coach Scott in the first few days of camp is how to be a professional as much as possible. I’m used to the long practices because of Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski), but right now it’s a little different because they expect so much more at this level.”
Irving said there are “a lot of similarities” between Duke’s sets and the Princeton offense the Cavs are running, including a number of pick-and-roll plays.
He’s also familiar with pressure and high expectations, having been one of the most prominently recruited players in the nation while in high school.
“The pressure of being the No. 1 pick is inevitable,” he said. “That’s something I’m going to have to embrace, which I’m doing.”
The big differences now are that Irving is playing at the highest level and getting paid millions of dollars, but he seems to be keeping everything in perspective, including what he plans to do with his first NBA paycheck.
“I’ll probably present it to my father,” he said. “I’ll give him a big hug and yell, ‘We made it.’”
Meet Kyrie Irving
- Height: 6-2
- Weight: 180
- Age: 19
- Position: Point guard
- Draft pick: No. 1 overall
- College: Duke
- College PPG: 17.5
- College APG: 4.3
- Note: Played only 11 games due to injury.