(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Irving had 34 points next to his name, the kind of point total he needed to have routinely before the Cleveland Cavaliers signed LeBron and Kevin Love. Now, the Cavaliers need Irving to play the part of a point guard, and that’s not what he played Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
In 45 minutes, he had one rebound and not a single assist. So nowhere along the way was Irving able to find LeBron or Love loose for an easy basket. Not once did Irving hit LeBron with an alley-oop or pass the ball to him on the wing for a three. No, what Irving did was emulate Russell Westbrook’s bad habits – habits that might produce sparkling numbers but not a single championship.
What Irving’s play proved is he’s not ready to hand over the reigns to the best player in the game. He seems not to understand that whatever success the Cavaliers might have in the 2014-15 season will be because of LeBron and the complementary players that surround him.
Billionaire Dan Gilbert didn’t open his wallet to bring LeBron back to see him relegated to the role of Irving’s sidekick. Gilbert rebuilt this Cavaliers team to accommodate LeBron’s skills and break some of Irving’s bad habits.
"There's a lot of bad habits, a lot of bad habits been built up the past couple years," LeBron told the media the other day. "When you play that style of basketball, it takes a lot to get it up out of you."
Those bad habits LeBron mentioned were on display Wednesday night in the 102-100 loss to the Utah Jazz. For there Irving was, firing shot after shot as if he were the marquee name on the roster. He was on the floor dominating the game’s tempo; he was dictating play, something he, at 22, is incapable of doing at a championship level.
He should have been relishing the opportunity to play alongside NBA All-Stars like LeBron and Love. Both men are talents a young point guard dreams about in his deepest sleep.
Some people might say it’s wrong to heap so much criticism on Irving after one game in which his selfish play hurt the Cavaliers. Yet how does someone let a performance like Irving’s go without criticism?
If Irving doesn’t learn that from LeBron, then he certainly must learn it from coach David Blatt, a man whose inexperience as an NBA coach might lead Irving to believe he is the brightest star.
But he is not. To think otherwise is to be delusional, and it also is to ruin what should be a wonderful season for Cleveland fans.
So far, the Cavs have been more woeful than wonderful. For they are a sorry lot, as puzzled as a team as NBA fans elsewhere are: How can a team with LeBron and Love look as if it were assembled with throwaway parts?
The answer to that question is easy: The Cavaliers look like such a team purely because their point guard doesn’t know how to play with a star that shines brighter than he does.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
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