INDEPENDENCE — Until Thursday, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson were the only players selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game prior to turning 21.
Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who won’t be old enough to legally buy a beer until March 23, is now in that exclusive group, as he’s the sixth-youngest player ever to make an All-Star team.
Despite Cleveland’s woeful 11-32 record, Irving was selected by East coaches as one of seven reserves for the Feb. 17 game in Houston.
“I’m truly blessed and thankful for the opportunity that the NBA has afforded me,” the 20-year-old said in a statement released by the Cavs. “This is more of a blessing for our team and the city of Cleveland and that’s what it’s mainly about. I’m just really happy and excited for the opportunity.”
The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving, who is averaging 23.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists, is Cleveland’s first All-Star since James in 2010. James, incidentally, is the only other player in the East averaging at least 20.0 points and 5.0 assists. Irving has also scored at least 40 points on two occasions this season, making him the only East player other than Carmelo Anthony to do so.
“It just says what type of point guard he is,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “He’s one of the best young point guards in the league. He’s up and coming. I think we all understand that.
“It’s just a matter of him continuing to play the way he’s been playing, keep his focus and that determination he has not only through this season, but throughout his career. He has to keep looking at ways to get better. That’s what great players do.”
Irving, who earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors last season after being the No. 1 overall pick out of Duke, was one of just two reserve guards chosen by East coaches. The other was Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday, though Indiana forward Paul George, who was also selected, plays some shooting guard.
“One of the best days of my life,” Irving told reporters backstage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, where he was named the top pro athlete in the city.
Irving admitted to jumping around at his home when he learned of his All-Star selection — “I didn’t do any backflips and cartwheels (because) I didn’t want to get hurt,” he said — but another thrill came moments latter when he got a congratulatory text message from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I don’t think Coach K has ever sent one of his players a text,” he told reporters. “I didn’t even know he could text. I think his assistant sent it for him. My freshman year at Duke he told me never to text him because he didn’t know how to text, so times are changing.”
The Cavs are hoping at least two things don’t change, as the six other players to make an All-Star team before they turned 21 all won NBA championships and are or will be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“He’s a guy that works very hard and is the epitome of who we want to be,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said of Irving. “He has grown as a player and a person here in Cleveland and we’re looking forward to him continuing to do that.”
Among East guards not picked were New York’s J.R. Smith, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson. The East’s starters in the backcourt, as selected in fan voting, will be Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
The other East reserves are Chicago’s Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, Miami’s Chris Bosh and New York’s Tyson Chandler. The West reserves are San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, Houston’s James Harden, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Golden State’s David Lee and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge.
Joining Wade and Rondo in the starting lineup for the East will be Miami’s James, New York’s Anthony and Boston’s Garnett, while the Los Angeles Lakers’ Bryant and Dwight Howard, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant will start for the West.
Because the league had not yet given formal approval of a Tuesday trade with Memphis — it did later in the day — new Cavs Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby could not practice with the team Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Scott wants Speights and Ellington to go through a full workout before playing — Selby has been optioned to Canton of the NBA Development League — so they won’t see action tonight against Milwaukee at Quicken Loans Arena or Saturday in Toronto. They will practice with the team Monday and are expected to play the following night when Cleveland hosts Golden State.
“It’s just the league being the league,” Scott said of the delay in the deal being finalized. “That’s the best I can put it without getting fined.”
Selby, a 6-3 point guard, was sent to the Charge. The second-year pro appeared in 10 games for Memphis and averaged 2.0 points. He appeared in two games for Reno of the D-League earlier this season and averaged 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
- Shooting guard C.J. Miles, who didn’t play Tuesday vs. Boston, still has a virus and did not practice. He is questionable for tonight.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.