Kyrie Irving: Life after LeBron

Sam Staunton Roar Rookie

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    Kyrie and Delly are both now gone from the Cavs. (Photo: AP)

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    All-star guard and former number one draft pick Kyrie Irving took the NBA by storm when he requested to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers in July of 2017.

    At the heart of his trade request was his longing to be out of the shadow – that shadow being cast by the best player in the world, LeBron James.

    Irving no longer wanted to be the second best, the second option – he wanted to be the man. He wanted to be part of a team where he was the focal point of the offense.

    His trade request made immediate headlines, with many fans prediction a new Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-like row between Irving and James, with others calling out Irving for having an inflated ego.

    Irving told First Take that he did not inform LeBron James of his desire to change homes, asking why he should have to do so, and leaving James to find out like the rest of us.

    Well, the Australian born 25-year-old got his wish. Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for fourth-quarter specialist Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, big man Ante Žižić, and a future first-round draft selection.

    Irving was excited to start fresh, being lined-up alongside superstar Gordon Hayward and young talents Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

    We are now three games into the Boston Celtics’ 2017-18 campaign, and, despite it being very early days, questions are being raised over Irving in his new outfit.

    Kyrie Irving forces a layup for the Cavs

    (Image: Keith Allison/CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The Celtics’ season opener against Kyrie’s former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, was supposed to be a blockbuster clash, with fans licking their lips over the prospect of watching Irving and James battle it out.

    However, unfortunately the game was overshadowed by Gordon Hayward sadly suffering a season-ending leg injury. Irving was unable to close out the game for the Celtics, missing a three-pointer in the dying seconds that would’ve tied the game.

    We can forgive him for that, given he’d had to witness his teammate and friend ruin his season just a few quarters earlier.

    It was Irving’s next game however, that really raised concerns. The Celtics fell 108-100 to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Irving played poorly. He managed just 17 points, shooting an abysmal 28 per cent from the field.

    Sports analyst Nick Wright was scathing of Kyrie’s game. “Kyrie shot a bunch of shots, was inefficient, and his team lost. What does this remind me of? Oh, all the games he’s played without LeBron,” he said.

    So, Kyrie wants to be the focus. The man. He’s undoubtedly talented: he’s the game’s best closer and has some of the best handles the sport has ever seen. He can take over a game in the blink of an eye.

    But, can he do it without LeBron? Is Kyrie ready to branch out and be his own player without the assistance of the best player in the world? Can he lead Boston to victory?

    His start to the season, particularly his first two games, hasn’t been a good sign. But it’s early days, and Boston has been rattled by the injury to Hayward.

    The injury, however, gives Kyrie even more of a reason to step up. Isaiah Thomas, who the Celtics traded to gain Kyrie, led Boston to the Eastern Conference finals last year, without Hayward. Now Kyrie is faced with the same challenge.

    There’s every chance that Irving will learn to live without LeBron, and become the league’s best guard. But there is equally as much of a chance that Irving simply isn’t a player who can lead a team, and that he’ll crash and burn without LeBron.

    Kyrie’s ambitious nature and healthy ego pushed him to leave one of the games all time best players. LeBron makes his teammates better players, Kyrie being absolutely no exception.

    Kyrie, you may have just thrown away the chance to make it to the finals every year. You also may have to kiss goodbye to being known as one of the best offensive players in the NBA, with no LeBron James spacing the floor for you.

    But, to be fair it is too early to really know, and you may be poised to unleash and threaten the Cavaliers’ finals hopes.

    I can’t wait to see which direction Kyrie’s fresh start takes. Who wouldn’t want to see Kyrie come out and drop 40 points against the Knicks on Wednesday?

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