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Scott Howard-Cooper

With Kyrie Irving (right) and Tristan Thompson in the mix, the Cavs may be able to quickly turn things around.
With Kyrie Irving (right) and Tristan Thompson in the mix, the Cavs may be able to quickly turn things around.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

Only matter of time before Cavaliers become Irving's team


Posted Jun 24 2011 8:55PM

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The question was fair, if predictable, now that the Cavaliers have a veteran point guard with a massive contract and a rookie point guard as a No. 1 pick. Byron Scott's response was, likewise, fair and predictable.

No, he said, there is not an anointed starter between Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving.

In an amazing moment of restraint among the couple hundred fans, team officials and media members at the Cavaliers practice facility Friday afternoon, there was no hint of laughter. And, technically, the spot is open because Davis is more experienced, forward movement in the standings is needed, and Irving should not be overburdened. But this is Irving's job, with only the timeline in doubt before he officially takes over.

Of course it is his job. It's practically his team. The Cavaliers don't want it framed that way and say they won't do heavy marketing on individuals, except the rest of the world understands this is the new face of the roster, stepping in to fill the glamour void left by the departure of LeBron James. That Irving himself understands it as well, and in fact wants the role, is the important thing.

That he lands in this town at this time is nothing short of meant to be, the way Cleveland needs him as a basketball emotional lift, with energetic power forward Tristan Thompson is another sign of a bright future as the No. 4 pick, the way Irving seems mature enough after one Duke season to handle the spotlight. The way Scott is the coach here.

Speaking of stars aligning.

"I think about it every day," Scott said, "and it's like, 'I don't know why, but I'm glad I'm getting blessed like this.' "

Like this, with Irving. Or before, with two sure Hall of Famers and a third on a clear path to Springfield.

It's more good fortune than anything. The bulk of Scott's playing career was spent riding shotgun to Magic Johnson in the backcourt of the Showtime Lakers, and that's a pretty decent point-guard pairing to begin an NBA career. Jason Kidd, in his ninth year, landed in Scott's lap after one season of his first job as a head coach, with the Nets. There wasn't a lot of developing a playmaker then either.

Even being united with Irving is strictly coincidence. It's a fluke, actually. The Cavaliers didn't even own the pick for most of the season, not until it came from the Clippers in the February Baron Davis-Mo Williams, and the choice only had the eighth-best chance of becoming No. 1 when lottery night arrived. But No. 1 it became.

The Scott/point guard "tradition" was actually built on one pairing. He was hired by the Hornets in 2004 and Chris Paul arrived as the No. 4 pick a season later, and they took off together. New Orleans became an inspirational story after being forced by Hurricane Katrina to relocate to Oklahoma City, the coach and his focus were credited with keeping the team moving forward amid the unique adversity, and Paul turned into an All-Star and arguably the best player in the world at the position. He credited Scott for the progress at every opportunity, and when Scott was fired nine games into 2009-10, Paul told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that "I felt like, maybe somebody would have at least consulted with me and asked how I felt before it happened. It's not to get my approval, but we feel we should know about the decision before it takes place." CP3 was taken aback by the exit.

Now comes Irving and the comparisons to... Paul. That was the read from around the league long before the fluke of ending up with Paul's former coach, but it makes the subplot even better.

"Because of the history, it makes a nice story," Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant said. "But I do believe that he's such a good coach, whoever we would have taken would do well under Byron."

But it's another point with star quality. At some point this becomes more than a nice story, with the added irony that Davis and Scott clashed in their joined New Orleans days.

"I think everybody always has to compare great point guards coming out of college to somebody, and if you were to compare him to anybody it would be Chris Paul," Scott said. "But obviously they're a little bit different. Kyrie's a little bit bigger, probably a little bit stronger physically. Both are very adept at running the pick-and-roll. And they're both all about team. They're all about winning. They're all about sharing the ball and getting other guys involved. That's the reason that they compare them so much, because of the fact that they play a similar style of basketball."

There is no job competition, only an undetermined wait until Irving officially as the starter. The statement is fair and predictable.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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