NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving Talks About Duke Decision, Family and More
NBA Draft Media Day 2011 took place yesterday, and Bleacher Report was there reporting on a frenetic event where journalists from across the world scratch and claw for any quotes, soundbites and video clips from future NBA draft picks.
Twelve players appeared at the Westin Times Square, spilt into two groups of six, for 30-minute shifts early Wednesday afternoon.
Later in the day, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Knight, Markieff Morris and Kemba Walker participated in an hour-long clinic for 60 local Special Olympics athletes at John Jay College in Midtown Manhattan.
This slideshow will focus on Irving, the former Duke point guard who most people are projecting as the future No. 1 pick of the NBA draft tonight.
B/R was part of an impromptu four-person press conference at the clinic, in which Irving gave some interesting soundbites about his Duke career, the impact his father has had on his life and even Wilt Chamberlain.
Paul Kasabian is an NBA and New York Knicks Featured Columnist. All quotes were obtained first-hand at NBA Draft Media Day.
Kyrie Irving has a very close-knit relationship with his father, Drederick, and sister, Asia. When Kyrie was four, his mother passed away. Drederick, a former Boston University star and professional basketball player in Australia, raised his two children on his own. Kyrie has made very clear through interviews, including this one, how important his family is to him.
"I primarily play for my family," Irving said. It's been the three of us for a long time. I really owe [my father] a lot. I wouldn't be the type of person I am first and foremost without him."
When asked later what NBA player has had the most profound impact on his game, Irving instead answered his father, who he also notes is the most influential person in his life as well.
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Kyrie Irving also broached upon the topic of his decision to leave Duke, noting in response to a question from The Chronicle that the decision hindered largely upon March Madness.
"Honestly, if I didn't play in the NCAA tournament, I would be back at Duke," Irving said. "The NCAA tournament was the deciding factor for me. I missed 26 games, and playing those three games was big for me. It was really important. It was a big decision, and I have no doubts about entering my name in the draft..."
"Honestly, it all depended on how well I did in the NCAA tournament. I just wanted to show a glimpse of 60 percent of how well I could play from the beginning of the year, and that's all it predicated on."
Irving further commented about his health in the tournament, and a special shoe Nike had to make for him just so he could play.
"Probably about 60 percent," Irving said regarding whether he was health-wise in March. "I was still getting up and down the floor, especially with that special Nike shoe that they made for me, which was probably about 18 ounces. That was probably about the heaviest shoes I've ever played in."
Irving and the John Jay Clinic
Watching Kyrie Irving interact with the athletes at the clinic, it was easy to tell that his enthusiasm for the hour-long event wasn't fake or scripted. He legitimately enjoyed working with all the participants that day, mainly co-leading his group of 20 people alongside Jimmer Fredette through dribbling drills.
"Did I make you nervous?" Irving shouted in jest as he played in defense against one player trying to dribble past Irving towards a cone at the foul line extended.
"Being out here with the kids is such a great experience, and being with other athletes is such a great experience," Irving said after the event's conclusion.
When asked who he would pick to play alongside him in a game of two-on-two (stipulations: any historical or current player minus Michael Jordan), Kyrie didn't hesitate to answer:
"I'd probably pick Wilt," Kyrie said. "I'd run the pick and roll with him; nobody could guard him."
Many mock drafts connected Kyrie Irving and the seven-foot Jonas Valanciunas, who is probably the best big man in pick-and-roll situations, with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the No. 1 and No. 4 selections in the draft. Irving won't find Wilt Chamberlain in Jonas Valanciunas, but he will find the skill set he is looking for in that dream two-on-two matchup.
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Enes Kanter, who was by far the most candid 2011 draft pick yesterday, had the sound bite of the hour: "If I play with Kyrie, I believe we can make playoffs. I know we can make playoffs."
Enes Kanter is implying it, every mock draft is projecting it and the Cleveland Cavaliers may have said it without saying it yesterday to ESPN: Kyrie Irving is going first to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Irving hasn't been told whether he will be the No. 1 pick yet, but at 7:00, this seems like a mere formality. As he closed his quick press conference, Irving said, "My individual goal during the year is mainly to win. Whatever team I go to, I just want to bring a winning attitude and a winning spirit to the team."
That quote can be easily dismissed as another stereotype in the midst of hundreds of interviews Irving has had to give, but from a first-hand impression, Cavs fans should be very happy: He is the real deal.