NBA Saturday: Irving Impresses in Debut
Last night, Kyrie Irving took the court for the first time since being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because the lockout canceled the NBA’s Summer League, this was the first look at the number one overall pick. All eyes were on Irving, but Cavaliers’ head coach Byron Scott decided to start Ramon Sessions and play the rookie in a sixth man role. Even in limited minutes, the 19-year-old phenom still took over the game.
Irving finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in just 26 minutes of action. He finished at the rim on several occasions and showed off his mid-range jumper as well. He was matched up against Brandon Knight, the eighth overall pick in the draft, for much of the evening and limited him to 9 points and 4 assists. After the game, Irving admitted that his nerves got the best of him at times.
“Nerve wracking, especially trying to get my nerves out,” Irving said. “It was a good start for our team and we’re going to continue to get better as we go through this process. I was happy with our effort from everybody. The first group, Ramon and all the other veterans and starters did a great job and the job for our second group was to come in and continue that pressure and that energy even though we did have a little more turnovers. I had a lot of turnovers myself but I’m going to continue to get better every single day.”
Scott picked apart Irving’s performance during his postgame press conference.
“I thought he played okay,” Scott said. “You can see that he is a rookie. Five turnovers for him is too many. He has to do a better job of taking care of the ball on offense but in his first game in nine months I’m not going to be too critical of him but defensively he could have done a lot better. That’s one area on the floor where I know he can be a little bit more of a pest on that end of the floor with his quickness.”
Irving really started to play well in the second quarter, after Jason Maxiell swatted away one of his shots. While most players would defer after being blocked, Irving took over.
“I think that was my welcome to the NBA thing,” Irving said. “I didn’t get a foul call so I had to keep on moving and get back on the defensive end and I played my game. Once I got settled in I started to slow down. I was thinking a little bit too much and I let my instincts take over. Once that happened, I think I got my teammates involved and I played really well.”
Irving’s regular season debut will be on December 26 against the Toronto Raptors.
Pacers Head in Right Direction With West: Entering this offseason, the Indiana Pacers wanted to make a splashy acquisition. After years of rebuilding and stockpiling young talent, the Pacers wanted to sign a top free agent to lead the promising group and eventually turn them into a contender. Indiana found the right man for the job last week, signing David West to a two-year deal worth $20 million.
West will provide the leadership and experience that the Pacers need while giving them the opportunity to compete in the Eastern Conference. The 31-year-old is the epitome of humble and hardworking so he’ll have no problem fitting in Indiana. After spending his entire career with the New Orleans Hornets, West is excited about the change of scenery.
“This was at the top of my list, the Pacers and the organization,” West said during his introductory press conference. “Obviously there were other opportunities out there but they didn’t present this opportunity. This was the best opportunity, especially in this condensed season and moving forward. It’s a good core. It’s not just one or two guys, there’s a good core group here. In examining it I feel like I can really add and bring something to have an impact on this core group.”
With Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert entering their prime, West has high hopes for the Pacers. In fact, he insists that this is the most talented team he’s played on since entering the league.
“More than anything, I think this team has the pieces to win,” West told Pacers.com. “This is going to be the most talented team that I’ve been on since I’ve been in the NBA, from one through twelve. I’m just being honest. I’m looking forward to it. They’re already a young and exciting team and I feel like I can add to it.”
West was attracted to the situation, but Darren Collison also deserves some credit for the signing. West and Collison briefly played together in New Orleans and are still good friends. In recent months, Collison had been communicating with West and selling him on the idea of playing for the Pacers.
“We talked throughout the lockout,” West said with a laugh. “He was calling me and texting me saying, ‘Hey D, when this thing is over…’ We spoke about it because we’ve always maintained a good relationship even after he left. With him being here and also being familiar with some of the other guys, it felt like the right place to be.”
In March, West tore his ACL and has been rehabilitating his left knee ever since. While he has been cleared to return to the court, the Pacers are taking things slow with West. The power forward was working out on his own during the lockout, but the team wants to make sure he’s completely healthy before putting him out on the floor.
“I’m ready to go, but we’re going to be smart,” West said. “I was talking with Coach [Vogel], Larry [Bird] and David [Morway], and they just want to be smart because there’s no way to simulate the NBA practice or game environment. It’s going to take some time just to get back into the flow of things. When it’s time to rock and roll, I’ll be ready.”
Indiana hasn’t finished above .500 since 2004 but if all goes as planned, that trend will change this year.
News and Notes: Here are some news and notes from around the league.
• Baron Davis cleared waivers last night, which means he’s now an unrestricted free agent. The New York Knicks have expressed interest in Davis, even though a bulging disc in his back could sideline him for the next few weeks. Last year, Davis averaged 13.1 points and 6.7 assists in 58 games. The Knicks have also reached out to Travis Outlaw, who was also amnestied last week.
• Devin Green is in camp with the New York Knicks and he has been playing extremely well. He has impressed all of the right people, from his teammates to his coaches. Green has played very well overseas and in the D-League in recent years. After New York missed out on Jamal Crawford, Maurice Evans and Shawne Williams in free agency, Green may end up making the roster.
• Nate Robinson hasn’t been in camp with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the team is expected to trade or waive him at some point in the next few weeks. Robinson is currently working out in Seattle and waiting for a resolution. The two sides have been discussing a buyout for quite some time because Robinson isn’t part of the rotation yet he’s making $4,500,000 this season.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There is only one chat on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because this chat fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.