Kyrie Irving is the proud owner of a new extension to his rookie contract, one of the most unfair handles in the world and all the hopes of Cleveland basketball (with great talent comes great responsibility). Last season’s Rookie of the Year showed he could play with the NBA’s best in his lockout-shortened season and now is out to disprove the idea of the sophomore slump as he goes a full 82 games. So far in his preseason, he’s averaged 14.7 points, 3.0 assists in 24 minutes per exhibition game.
He recently talked with Dime from Ohio, where he discussed his new deal, his reaction to Team USA camp and possibly playing shooting guard this season.
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Dime: Congratulations on getting your contract extended, along with Tristan Thompson. Not that it wasn’t going to happen, but is it nice to have that over with, anyway?
Kyrie Irving: I had my bags packed at the door, ready to go (laughs). Honestly I had no idea that that was something they had to do until one of my teammates told me. I had no idea they had to announce it. It was a surprise to me.
Dime: So did Tristan know, either?
KI: I told Tristan once I found out. I said, “I’m back on the team next year, I don’t know if you’re on the team so good luck.” He had to go up to the GM to find out.
Dime: Have you talked any veterans about mistakes to avoid going from a rookie year to a sophomore season?
KI: I talked to a few vets and how to get a baseline read on it, where I am and then were I can go. I just talked to some of my favorite point guards to see how they did it.
Dime: Who are those guys?
KI: Magic Johnson, CP3, Derrick Rose, I really looked to those guys and saw how they got better.
Dime: Did you see any patterns emerge in their progress?
KI: They all made a quite a leap as far as their sophomore years. They weren’t all All-Stars but they all made big strides.
Dime: Your time in Team USA camp this summer in Vegas went viral quickly because your highlights were eye-opening. Did any of your teammates comment to you on how well you seemed to be playing?
KI: When you go against guys with All-Stars like that you just go out there and play. I just wanted to gain their respect and be like I’m one of the best point guards in the league. I wasn’t really worried about their approval or respect.
Dime: Do you still hear about, from people around the league, the play where you crossed over Kobe, CP3, James Harden and Kobe again, all in one play?
KI: (Laughs) My friends bring it up to me but that was just one particular play. It’s in the past.
Dime: You’ve been battling injuries the past two years and had your hand broken not long after Team USA camp, of course. Do you feel you’re completely healthy now and can stay that way?
KI: Absolutely. I haven’t missed a day of practice and I’m thankful fof that.
Dime: Dion Waiters is a guy who’s had a rough start to his rookie season, both in the summer and now in preseason. Are you talking to him about how to keep his head up?
KI: I talk to him every single day and tell him to have belief in himself and belief in our system. He can play like this in our system. Coming from college to the pros is a huge transition.
Dime: Now that you’ve been in the league and have seen the other guards, what parts of your game are unique?
KI: I would just say my versatility and being able to play off the ball as well. In high school I played the two, in college I played the one and now I’m playing the one. Throughout my years playing basketball I’ve played both positions.
Dime: Yeah, but would you realistically let Byron Scott take the ball out of your hands this season?
KI: Yeah it definitely can happen. There’s a lot of energy being consumed when the ball is in my hand, and so I’m happy to go off the ball and try to make plays.
What do you think of Irving at shooting guard?
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