LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was about far more than basketball, but rest assured that a player like Kyrie Irving was wearing wine and gold at the time of James’ decision made it even easier. And as LeBron’s suddenly star-studded group embarks on the 2014-2015 season, he is doing everything he can to make sure Irving – Cleveland’s franchise player before The King came home – knows that the Cavs are his team, too.
Following Cleveland’s first practice of the season, James lavished Irving with praise and claimed the ball would be in the 22 year-old, reigning All-Star MVP’s hands first and foremost.
Via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“I’ll probably handle the ball a little bit, but this is Kyrie [Irving’s] show,” James said Saturday following the team’s first practice of training camp. “He’s our point guard. He’s our floor general, and we need him to put us in position to succeed offensively. He has to demand that and command that from us with him handling the ball.”
This is a classic leadership tactic by James. Irving is coming off the worst season of his NBA career, and despite a five-year, $90 million assurance that he’s a vital part of Cleveland’s bright present and future, it would make sense if his sense of worth to the Cavaliers was somewhat compromised by James’ arrival. He’s now a teammate of the best player in the world, after all, and surely watched as Dwyane Wade took a backseat to LeBron as the Miami Heat reached four consecutive NBA Finals and won two championships.
James, though, knows Cleveland will only reach its sky-high ceiling if Irving touches his individual one, too. And key for Irving to do so is the belief that a player and leader of LeBron’s caliber is counting on it.
Of lesser means behind James’ sentiment is the simple fact that it’s high-time his workload decreases. LeBron is nearly 30 years-old and has played more basketball and assumed more responsibility over the past four years than perhaps any player in league history. He no doubt watches a player of Irving’s rare talents and sees an opportunity to finally get some relative rest during the regular season. That principle applies to the presence of Kevin Love, too.
Make no mistake – James won’t become just a post-up threat or spot-up shooter for the Cavs. No player threatens defenses with the ball in his hands the way LeBron does, and David Blatt will act accordingly. But in Irving, James knows he could have another superstar at his side as he finally begins the descent of his basketball prime. LeBron actually ceding touches and control of the offense to Irving will certainly help him get there, but the belief that James wants to could be even more influential.
What do you think?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.