Those frustrations were exacerbated Wednesday night. With LeBron James taking the evening off, Irving scored 33 points on 12-of-28 shooting from the field in a 99-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks, but he managed just one assist.
While his teammates are frustrated with a lack of assists, they are more frustrated that Irving often seems unwilling to pass, per Haynes. He noted that Irving's teammates were left scratching their heads at one point during the game when Irving dribbled for the duration of the shot clock before putting up a tough shot that he missed.
Haynes added, "The notion within the locker room is that the situation is tolerable, because it isn't permanent. If the Cavaliers were dealt the misfortune of playing without [LeBron] James for an extended period of time, this locker room would be boiling over."
Irving, 23, is averaging 19.9 points, 4.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game this season. But both James (6.5 assists per game) and backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova (4.6) are averaging more assists than Irving.
His teammates reportedly taking issue with his lack of distribution isn't new this season. In February, Haynes reported that James, "has been growing livid about being the sole proprietor of making sure guys are involved, and in a rhythm" and that "Irving has to take some of that responsibility away."
Irving's 33 points and game-winning steal to preserve the win took him off the hook somewhat for what was perceived to be his selfish play on Wednesday. But it was also a stark reminder that James must remain the team's offensive focal point, if only because he is a willing distributor, while Irving is a much better scorer than playmaker.
Nonetheless, Irving's teammates clearly want him to take on more of a distributor role, even if it means sacrificing some of his scoring. If the Cavaliers are to win a championship this season, it's a sacrifice Irving may need to embrace.
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