Despite being voted into the 2014 NBA All-Star Game as a starter—the second All-Star nod of his career—Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has been stung with criticism from opposing general managers who say he is “pouting.”
“Two opposing general managers this season have told me they think Irving is pouting,” writes the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd. “Over what is anyone’s guess. Jarrett Jack hasn’t been the locker room enforcer he was supposed to be. Luol Deng should help, but he just arrived and may not be (in Cleveland) past April.”
While Irving has compiled an impressive list of accolades—No. 1 overall pick, NBA Rookie of the Year, Rising Stars Challenge MVP, Three-Point Shootout champion and two-time All-Star—team success hasn’t coincided with individual achievements.
In fact, the opposite has been true, as the Cavaliers are now 61-131 since they drafted the youngster out of Duke.
#Cavs 61-131 since Kyrie Irving was drafted. Not all on him at all, but that’s a damning record. Do ‘franchise changing-stars’ allow that?— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) January 27, 2014
Part of those struggles stem from a negative attitude and immaturity on Irving’s part. Another huge issue, however, has been defense. According to 82Games.com, the Cavaliers allow opposing point guards to produce a player efficiency rating of 17.9—the highest mark of any opposing position.
Irving has surrendered big games against Michael Carter-Williams (33 points and five assists), Isaiah Thomas (26 points and six assists) and Damian Lillard (28 points and five assists), among others.
A recent notable outburst came courtesy of Chicago Bulls point guard D.J. Augustin, who was signed by Chicago after the Toronto Raptors released him on Dec. 9. Augustin poured in 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting (5-of-8 from downtown) against Irving and the Cavs. He added seven assists and five rebounds while turning the ball over just twice.
That led to the following exchange between Lloyd and Cleveland’s floor general:
I asked him why Augustin gives him so many problems.
“Problems?” Irving responded, as if disagreeing with the assessment. So I reminded him that Augustin had 27 Wednesday after scoring 18 in the previous meeting. Irving blamed the defense.
“Most of the time when he was coming off the pick-and-roll, he was wide open,” Irving said. “He was playing so free out there. We were trying to make adjustments and most of the time he was wide open.”
Needless to say, that doesn’t resonate with the tone of a bona fide leader and alpha dog. Instead of owning up to a poor individual performance on the defensive end, Irving deflected blame to his teammates—even though he was often just getting beat off the dribble, as Lloyd goes on to point out.
In the eyes of some opposing GMs, Irving’s reputation continues to be marred with negatives. Instead of embracing a leadership role on a young squad by holding himself accountable, the Cavs point guard appears to be more interested in his “brand.”
Per Lloyd’s article:
When he was asked again last week about bypassing the chance to play for Australia in the Olympics a couple of years ago to preserve his chance to play for Team USA in 2016, Irving said “It was a big decision, not only for myself but for my family and my brand. That’s what it boiled down to.”
You know what will really help Irving’s brand?
How’s that for a zinger?
If the Cavaliers were actually winning games on a consistent basis, the 21-year-old’s defensive shortcomings would be swept under the rug—like what’s happened with Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
As long as the Cavs continue to struggle, though, Irving will continue to face some admittedly warranted criticism.