CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Despite entering the break with one of the worst records in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be well represented during All Star weekend.
Guard Kyrie Irving will be a reserve All Star for the Eastern Conference and he will not get much of a break while in Houston.
The NBA’s reigning rookie of the year, who is averaging 23.5 points and 5.5 assists per game this season, will participate in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, the 3-point shootout Saturday and then the All Star game on Sunday.
“I’m really excited for the All Star experience,” Irving said. “I’m going to take it all in and be a rookie for the All Star game and everything that goes with it. It’s a blessing to be there and thank you to the coaches for picking me and I’m just going to go down there and enjoy myself.”
Irving won’t be alone.
Forward Tristan Thompson along with rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters will also participate in the Rising Stars Challenge game featuring rookies and sophomore stars.
“They’ve earned it,” coach Byron Scott said. “They’ve worked their butts off but also it puts more pressure on these guys going into the second half of the season and next year to get even better and to take us to newer heights.
“It shows that those guys have done some great things this season and they deserve it but we’re looking for bigger and better things in the future.”
While Irving is the headliner of the Cavaliers’ contingent, it also marks the second straight trip to All Star weekend for Thompson, who joined Irving last year in the Rising Stars Challenge.
In his second season Thompson is averaging 11.4 points and 9.10 rebounds per game including 20 double-doubles.
Irving and Thompson were drafted No. 1 and No. 4 respectively in the 2011 NBA draft and will be joined with the top 2 picks from the Cavaliers’ class of 2012 in Waiters and Zeller.
Having 4 players selected within the last 2 years at All Star weekend is quite the feat.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Thompson said. “It shows that the amount of work that we 4 have put in to get better everyday.”
Last year Irving scored 34 points to take home MVP honors in the game. This time he has a new challenge – the 3-point shootout during Saturday night’s skills challenge.
Irving has been practicing in advance of the 3-point shootout, which consists of 5 racks with 5 balls per rack and the last ball on each rack is worth 2 points, and is open to any advice that he can get – depending on who it comes from.
“I still haven’t talked to a first place winner so if Mark Price called me I’d listen to what he has to say,” Irving said. “Obviously I’m not taking any advice from coach Scott.”
Scott let Irving know that although he’s never won a 3-point shootout at All Star weekend, he has won the ultimate prize – multiple times.
“He said he wanted advice from Mark Price,” Scott said. “I said, ‘That’s good, Mark has won a 3-point contest and I got 3 championship rings’ so take it for what it’s worth.
“I got the last laugh in that one.”
After practice Tuesday afternoon, Irving scored 21 out of a possible 30 points while reporters were permitted to watch.
Although the Cavaliers head into the break 16-37 and 2 wins shy of where they were a year ago through 53 games, the fact that 4 Cavaliers – all from the last 2 draft classes – are headed to Houston speaks volumes.
“It says that those 4 guys obviously have a bright future in this league,” Scott said. “It says about our organization that our future is bright as well. That we’re making steps, the right steps in trying to get better as a basketball team. The organization has put us in a position to continue to grow.”