CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – At a certain point in every NBA superstar’s career, the light bulb comes on, the maturing takes place, and that player makes strides toward becoming a game-changing talent on many levels.
For some, that evolution never takes place. The association is littered with talented players that never become anything more than stat collectors.
But for others, youth and inexperience gives way to a road paved with leadership, growth – and eventually – winning.
Perhaps, Kyrie Irving has figured out his path.
On Friday night, the third-year guard added to his growing list of achievements, collecting the first triple-double of his young career in a 99-79 Cavaliers’ win over the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 12 assists in the victory, doing the majority of his damage in the second half.
A fan running on to the court in the fourth quarter to tell Irving he loved him was the only thing that could slow him down – and even that stoppage was only for a moment.
After all, it would have been rude of Irving not to pause and say “I love you, too.”
But he went back to work, grabbed his 10th rebound and left to a chorus of cheers after being subbed out in the fourth.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and their assistance out there,” Irving said. “Having my first triple-double, especially at home, makes it that much more special.”
But beyond the impressive stat line has come an appeared difference in attitude and leadership on a team that desperately needed a positive direction. Irving seems to have given them that.
Wins have followed. It has been a welcome change for him. After all, Irving was criticized earlier this season after the Cavaliers failed to deliver on the expectations placed upon them.
The difference in him has been noticeable. The team is responding.
He is smiling more in post-game interviews. He is willing to joke around and be more relaxed when answering questions. And most importantly, his play on the court is leading to victories and drawing the team closer to a possible playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – something that seemed improbable to imagine a few short weeks ago.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Irving said. “All we can do right now is compete. Live in the moment.
“Every time we’re in the huddle, I tell this guys, including myself in my head, ‘live in the moment.’ Take advantage of what’s in front of us right now. The future will happen by itself. But right now, we can control what we can control in the moment and we can live with the results.”
Still 3.5 games out of a playoff spot with 22 games remaining, the postseason may be a bit of a long shot for the Cleveland – but Irving has his team playing their best ball of the season as they come down the stretch.
That is a good sign.
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