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How is Kyrie Irving going to top his rookie season in Cleveland?
After being selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 Draft, all he did was turn in one of the greatest rookie seasons in league history – taking the MVP trophy at All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. After taking top freshman honors, he starred in a Pepsi commercial and traveled to Vegas where he more than held his own against a Team USA squad that’s been compared to the Dream Team.
Irving led all first-year players in scoring (18.5 ppg) and shooting (.469 from the floor, .872 from the stripe) and finished second in assists (5.4 apg). He joined Oscar Robinson, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and LeBron James as the only No. 1 overall picks to average at least 18.0 points and 5.0 assists in their first year.
He’s one of the league’s brightest stars and his team’s unquestioned leader.
And he’s just 20 years old.
And like most 20-year-olds, Kyrie Irving found some time for fun during the summer months. The Cavs point guard will be answering the tough basketball questions in about seven weeks when Training Camp tips off in Independence. But for today, Cavs.com decided to ask Irving what he did during his first offseason as a pro.
Kyrie’s one of the NBA’s best players, but he’s also one of its most diverse and interesting characters. Already proficient in two musical instruments, he’ll look to learn a third during his sophomore season. He talks about that pursuit, as well as his unique father-son relationship with Coach Scott, his Tinseltown encounter with Adam Sandler and how he got into character for “Uncle Drew” …
For starters, where have you spent your time this summer?
Kyrie Irving: I spent my summer in a few places. I went to Vegas, the Bahamas. But mainly New Jersey. I was in Cleveland a few times. You know, just traveling. I went to L.A. a few times – here and there just doing different events. Just letting people know that I’m a real person.
After a year here, do you consider yourself a Clevelander?
Irving: I do. I do feel like a Clevelander. Every time, when people ask me, I automatically say my home is Cleveland.
I have a house in New Jersey. Where I’m from is New Jersey. But where I live is Cleveland. I’m a Clevelander now.
What are some of your favorite places to go out and get a bite?
Irving: I like Melt and I love XO. I’m a regular at XO. Also, the Barley House.
I do have a chef, but I still go out. Sometimes I can still blend in and sometimes I get a little bombarded. It’s the best of both worlds.
Have you been out to see any of the summer blockbusters?
Irving: I haven’t actually.
No “Avengers”? No “Dark Knight Rises”?
Irving: No. No.
What have you been watching this summer?
Irving: All I do is sit at home and watch Netflix. I started watching “Desperate Housewives.” I watched “Cinderella” with Brandy and Whitney Houston. (May she rest in peace). But I watch a lot of musicals. Nothing has changed. Musicals and weird movies – that’s me.
Are we talking musicals like “West Side Story”/”Grease” musicals?
Irving: 'West Side Story' was kind of ‘eh’ to me. 'Grease' is an awesome movie. I wish they’d make a new one, more for our time. The graphics are terrible when you look back on it.
You took drama courses at Duke and actually starred in a musical in college. Is stage performance something you’ve always enjoyed?
Irving: It’s something I enjoy doing because when I acted in a play – (it was ‘High School Musical’ and my brother Jerimiah was in it as well) – for me, it was more conquering the fear of getting in front of people and kind of putting yourself in a position where you’re uncomfortable.
I mean, I was acting and I was singing. And I’m not a singer. (I can hold a note but I’m not a singer.) I got up there and I had one of the main solos in the whole entire play. Do you know how much it took for me to do that? But nobody would understand that because of my personality. But getting up there – that eats me up inside.
And it was probably 200 people – at most – out in the crowd. I can play on a basketball court in front of millions of people but on a stage – me, acting, me, not being comfortable – it took a lot. And that was a stepping stone that made me feel like I could do anything. I sung my butt off!
After that, Uncle Drew must have come pretty easily to you?
Irving: (laughs) Uncle Drew – I wasn’t even trying!! You could tell – anyone who knows me knows: that’s me, all the way. I don’t have to try.
Was Uncle Drew based on anyone you know?
Irving: No, it was just my typical version of an old guy playing basketball.
So, all the now-famous lines – “rappity-hippity-hop” and “I get buckets” – those are all yours?
Irving: Those are all my lines. That was all me. Like I said, I didn’t even have to try.
Who’s your favorite actor?
Irving: It’s always Denzel Washington. I do like Jonah Hill, now. He’s hilarious. And Seth Rogan’s one of my favorites. I’m also a big fan of Adam Sandler.
Adam Sandler sat courtside with Jack Nicholson when we played the Lakers. (Jack Nicholson didn’t say anything to me; he’s too big time for me.) But Adam Sandler – when I was checking into the game – told me he’s a big fan and that I’m doing amazing things.
That, right there, was an incredible moment: Me, being in L.A. and me experiencing that for myself – after watching him on TV and at the movies for years – that moment. I’ve only told that moment once or twice. But Adam Sandler acknowledging me! He’s a fan of mine and I’m a fan of his. It’s really crazy.
In other artistic pursuits, you said last year that learning the guitar is your next endeavor …
Irving: I actually have a guitar at my house now. I got it as a gift from winning a Spike TV Guy’s Choice Award. I’m going to try it. I’ll probably bring it up to Cleveland this season. It’ll be fun.
What have you been listening to this summer?
Irving: You know Bob Acri? He’s a pianist and I’ve been listening to his compositions lately. That’s been the newest guy I’ve picked up.
And Coach Scott actually put me on Trombone Shorty, and he also does a lot of band compositions.
I don’t know. I listen to rap and stuff like that. But (the other) type of music, you really learn to appreciate it and the time that’s really put in.
Speaking of Coach Scott, you two have a very unique, playful, chop-busting relationship. How would you describe it?
Irving: That’s my guy! That’s my basketball father. And he’ll admit the same thing. Our relationship is similar to the one that I have with my father.
We joke around, but when it’s time to get serious, you’ll never see a smile on my face. Basketball is our job. But off the court, yeah.
I had to earn Coach’s respect at first. If you remember, I didn’t talk to anybody when I first came here. I was still kind of joyful, but I really didn’t know anybody. I wasn’t really close with Coach. But with Coach Scott, now we’ve won games together, we’ve lost games together.
And on top of that, we’re both Aries. So when he gets mad, I know not to (screw) up. As an Aries, I know how stubborn I am. I know how I expect the best out of everybody all the time no matter what – whether we’re playing cards or doing anything. Same with Coach Scott. That’s why we get along so well.
It’s hard to imagine that same relationship with Coach K at Duke …
Irving: All my coaches, we’ve all had unique relationships.
Coach K was more letting me figure out things on my own. Everyone teased me that I was like the Golden Child at Duke. Coach K rarely yelled at me. He yelled at me twice, I think. He trusted me with the whole entire program. We were No. 1 in the country and he trusted me with everything. And that’s why we were so close.
And every time I go back to Duke, Coach and I still have a close relationship. I think it’s because I’m that ‘one that got away’ – like a beautiful girl that gets away and you regret your whole life. And we talk about it. I really regret not having the knowledge that I really could have soaked in and used to this day. And he really regrets not coaching me.
I feel like we would have been undefeated the entire season if I hadn’t gotten hurt. No question. We were the best team, it just didn’t work out.
Speaking of college, you’ll be welcoming in a pair of rookies to the pros this fall?
Irving: Yeah, and they’re both older than me – which is crazy.
You’ve know Dion Waiters for quite a while now. What can you tell people about him?
Irving: With Dion, he has a chip on his shoulder. When you interview him or talk to him, there’s no hiding it at all. That’s just who Dion is and it’s what makes him good. He has a chip on his shoulder and he feels like nobody can stop him.
That’s a good attitude to have and we’re going to need that next year – especially coming into the season. Once he realizes that we’re the Cleveland Cavaliers and we’re going to have to earn everything that we get. We’re not on TV every night. We’re not nationally televised. There’s not national attention on what we’re doing here. We have to earn everything.
Once he figures everything out and learns how to really play the game with other good players, he’ll be great. Because here, it’s nowhere near college. And that’s really the biggest transition that rookies have to make. It’s no longer where you’re the best player on the team and, because of that, you somehow deserve this and deserve that. No. You work for everything you get here.
What about Tyler Zeller?
Irving: I don’t really know too much about Tyler. I know he’s a good person and very good player. It’ll be interesting.
The team that we have, we’ll probably be one of the youngest teams in the league. And I think I’m still the youngest player on the team.
You’re the youngest player, but also the team’s unquestioned leader heading into this year. Is that something you’re ready for?
Irving: Yeah, I’m ready for it and whatever comes with it.
So what will you do between now and the seven weeks before Training Camps starts in late September?
Irving: Now it’s just rehab. And I’ll bring everybody in for September. And we’ll just be working out here (at Cleveland Clinic Courts).
Because I want everybody to be in shape for Camp Scott – that’s all I’m going to say.
I think there are only a couple of us here from last year’s Training Camp. And we all know what to expect – only it’s going to be a lot worse because (Coach Scott) has freaking three weeks to work with us!
It’ll be fun. Coming back into the gym with everybody – it’ll be fun.