The Cleveland Cavaliers can call the 2013-14 season a lot of things.
A disaster. A hopeless endeavor. A severe overestimation of their team's ability. A reality check. A failure to meet the lofty expectations.
Kyrie Irving is just going to call it a challenge.
The 21-year-old point guard who will be starting for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad spoke with Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, and here are his unfortunate thoughts on what has occurred during this lackluster campaign:
I needed this. It was more or less a wake-up call. I got away with so much my first two years. It wasn’t a breeze, but everything came easy. This is the first year where every single night it’s going to be a challenge. That’s one of the things I’m getting used to and I’ve accepted.
A challenge indeed.
Irving has struggled to take strides forward during his third professional season. His scoring has declined, both in terms of volume and efficiency. His passing is marginally better, although he's doing a fine job cutting back on his turnovers.
And his defense...well, let's not get into something that still doesn't exist on a regular basis.
As Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley wrote, "The 21-year-old is charismatic, immensely talented and unbelievably exciting to watch. He's also the NBA's most overrated superstar, and he's facing an uphill battle in shedding that label."
Overcoming that label is a challenge in itself. Especially when it's a legitimate one, as Irving in no way deserves to be starting in the All-Star Game at the expense of John Wall or Kyle Lowry.
There's no more telling indicator of overratedness than a fan vote, after all.
"The numbers don’t suggest it, but for me, this is the first year I was really challenged the whole entire year,” Irving told Lloyd. “I spent the whole entire summer preparing as much as possible to be in this position. It was a lot harder than I expected. That’s part of life and part of this game. It’s growing up.”
The Duke product's talent is still through the roof, and it's a positive sign that his work ethic is there. But it doesn't take away from this struggle of a season, one that has seen Cleveland sink down well outside the playoff picture, even in the ridiculously weak Eastern Conference.
There's one good thing about wake-up calls and challenges, though.
They can be overcome, and they only make the success of the future taste all the more sweet.