All posts by macelieberman

Is Kyrie Irving Leaving Cleveland Really Bad News?

Kyrie Irving’s plan to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers is undisputedly the hottest news in the NBA. Kyrie has distinguished himself as one of the most talented guards and elite players in the game. His spontaneous trade request brings about a very interesting future for the NBA.

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Irving was drafted number one overall in 2011, and was boded to be the face of the Cavaliers franchise for years to come. However, when LeBron James returned in 2014, Irving’s prior prophesy of being “the man” in Cleveland was overshadowed by the hype of “The King” coming home. Irving has always had that look in his eye that told the world that he was one of the best in the league, with his playing style and how he carries himself on the court. Coming into the league though, he was young and inexperienced. LeBron’s return had the adverse effect of allowing him to progress and evolve into the unparalleled player that he has become. With the young rising superstar paired up with one of the greatest players of all time along with the plethora of talent that the Cavaliers assembled, an NBA championship was in the purview.

It is every basketball player’s dream to win an NBA championship, and Irving’s sacrificing of superstardom to achieve that dream and advance as a player next to a great role model was tolerable in his mind. He would take the backseat to LeBron for as long as it took to get that NBA title. In 2015, the Cavs made it to the finals, but lost to the Warriors. Coming so close but ultimately failing gave him the will to get revenge, and therefore the will to continue to ride behind LeBron. In 2016, the Cavs won the title back after getting the rematch with the Warriors they were waiting for. Why stop the music if it can keep on playing? That’s what Irving thought as he stayed for another year to try and win back to back championships. However, after losing in the finals to the Warriors again in 2017, Irving must have had an epiphany.

Kyrie Irving is undoubtedly an amazing player and has always showed that, though it seems as if he has something to prove. He wants to show the world what he can truly do, as any amazing player would want. It’s not a personal issue between him and LeBron as the media portrays, but rather, Irving recognizes that he has already won a championship in his prime, and now wishes to expand on his legacy and become one of the greats.

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In a press conference, Irving said that he wanted a situation like Damian Lillard’s or John Wall’s; a situation where he could be the centerpiece of a franchise. Lillard actually responded to the comment, saying that he doesn’t understand why Irving would want to leave Cleveland and abandon the opportunity that most players can only dream about; playing with LeBron and being a member of one of the most talented teams the NBA has ever seen. That being said, Lillard and Irving have never been in each other’s shoes, and therefore cannot understand each other’s feelings on the matter. Irving has had the luxury of playing on an elite team and winning a championship, while Lillard has had the time to be the superstar for his franchise. The two players have totally different aspirations and experiences, and so it makes sense that they are unable to empathize with those goals and disagree with each other.

All in all, Kyrie Irving isn’t abandoning Cleveland based off of personal vendetta, he’s doing so because he recognizes the potential he has as a player, and wants to continue forging his legacy to show the world his true capability. There was no interpersonal drama. The drama came because of how the situation was handled. Irving handled it with attitude, which led to LeBron’s involvement, and in turn the media’s firestorm.

As for the fate of Cleveland, I believe it is a good move for both Irving and the team. He gets the potential to live out his aspiration and be the face of a franchise, while the Cavs won’t be brought down by too many superstar egos. If they can replace Irving with a solid point guard and get something else in return on top of that, they will end up being better than they were with Irving. A team can be too good for their own good. With too many superstars on a team, chemistry can become lost, drama can spark, and an efficient flow of play can cease as the stars individually try and control situations within a game. This was clearly seen in the Cavs’ offensive play style. There was too much focus revolving around isolation and not enough team play. This is what doomed them in the 2017 finals. Their play-style was like a scratched record; there wasn’t a smooth flow of play because of the competing egos.

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Kyrie Irving’s trade demand yields good news for his and the Cavs’ future. At first glance, Irving’s departure can stop a Cavs fan’s heart, but by taking an optimistic outlook of the situation, a positive future can be seen for both sides. Cleveland can become a more balanced, cohesive team, and Kyrie Irving can show the world what he can truly do.

Who’s Got Next?

Flash back with me – you have a piece of balled-up paper in your hand and a trash can in the corner. “FIVE!” You have your back slightly turned to the trash can with both hands on the “ball”. “FOUR!” You start to lean backwards to get a feel for the defender. “THREE!” You turn your head to the side and give your defender that cocky smirk, letting them know that this is your shot and that there will be no mercy. Sound familiar yet? “TWO!” You turn the other way, drop your back leg, and rotate your shoulders quickly. At this point, both you and your defender know that they had made a mistake and that you have the upper hand. “ONE!” You quickly turn back around and you see that the defender has been completely sold by the fake. You start to rise-up and fade away. As the shot is about to be released, you see the dismantled defender struggling to block your shot. You give a soft smile as the ball leaves your fingertips. The imaginary buzzer goes off and the shot is good. To seal the deal, you yell out, “Kobe!”.

An era filled with great superstars, some of whom earning the title of being some of the greatest players ever, is approaching an end. We had the opportunity to watch greats like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and many others play during arguably the most exciting years of basketball, during a time when the league’s style was transitioning from “old school” to a “more modern” style of play. Though this era and every other era of NBA history was jam-packed with its own unique greats, every era of basketball is truly remembered because of a select few. The 50s, 60s and 70s were dominated by big men. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson truly classified this era and left a legacy. The 80s and 90s shifted from a big man presence to a brute style of play where only the most physical and skilled players excelled. Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, and later, Shaquille O’Neal, are perfect examples of the players that represented this era of basketball. The late 90s and 2000s, the era that is becoming obsolete, consists of some of the greatest basketball players to ever live–players that were known for their supreme athleticism and talent with a basketball. Players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have and continue to leave their mark on the league. These two are examples of players that are, and forever will be, icons for their generation of basketball and for the league’s evolution in the aggregate.

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The style of basketball is forever evolving. As time progresses, only a select few are remembered as representatives of their time and era. Though every section of NBA history is filled with phenomenal players, most of their names are lost with time. It takes a truly remarkable player to survive the test of time. Only an extremely small population of players from each era are able to keep their name alive, let alone be able to be known as a king of their era. A player like Moses Malone dominated his respective time, but is forgotten in today’s ramblings of the NBA’s all-time greats, for instance.

Today, basketball continues to evolve. It is becoming more about flashiness and swagger than it is about the will to win. Positions are also becoming more and more ambiguous as we now see seven-foot players with floor-spacing capabilities. As we start to leave the fleeting era of the conglomerate formed by Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, we enter a new and young era filled with fringe players such as Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as exciting backcourt players like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. We anxiously wait to see who will rise above the rest of the league, represent their era, and be the first player thought of when this new era becomes an old one. We are still waiting for a new king to take the crown from LeBron James.

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It is extremely difficult to look at a player at around 18 years of age and automatically know that they are destined to be an NBA legend. There have only been a few players in history to have lived up to the hype at a young age to go on and become a dominant player in the NBA. There have been a multitude of number one draft picks that have ended up being busts, and conversely, there have been players taken later in the draft that have outdone the players drafted before them. Regardless, this new era of basketball will be remembered for its new take on the game and its completely different style of play, and therefore, the icons that will be remembered from this era will have to match these attributes. Some of the best players in the league today have the exact qualities discussed from this era.

Stephen Curry: an exciting shooter who leaves the crowd in awe from the confidence he displays and the shots that he pulls off.

Russell Westbrook: An athletic freak of nature who is having seasons statistically superior to any other season ever recorded.

Kevin Durant: The seemingly unguardable, most unconventionally built one through five player in the league today.

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These players and many others have the potential of becoming the few that represent this new era of basketball. Even the 2017 draft class has shown the potential to be on the same stage. Dennis Smith Jr. is an extremely athletic and exciting point guard with immense potential. Jayson Tatum is one of those unconventional players that can play any position on the floor and can be the most talented player in this draft class, as shown by his summer league play. Not to mention the top two picks in the draft, who every NBA fan has high hopes for. As for last year, Brandon Ingram, the second overall pick, is an extremely talented young player with some of the most potential to progress out of the whole draft class. And as for 2015, Karl Anthony-Towns is another example of a young player with surreal talent and potential, with his team currently poised to make a run at the NBA championship. He is a seven foot, true center that can spread the floor unlike any other big man in the league. The list can go on and on, but the point of the matter is that this new generation has already been classified as players indicative of an unconventional, new style of basketball. An infinite amount of predictions can be made about who will be the next set of names on the list, but the reality is that this era of basketball is still too young to tell and time will be the determining factor of the outcome. The next generation of fans who get the privilege of admiring, aspiring and enjoying this upcoming era of basketball will be the ones who can truly and sincerely distinguish the greatest players in the era that they will grow up watching and loving. We’ve all had our chance of being Kobe with five seconds left on the clock, a trash can in the corner and a paper ball in hand. The true progression and evolution of NBA history, along with the reveal of this upcoming era’s icons will evidently be displayed and recognized when there’s five seconds on the shot clock, a trash can in the corner, and paper ball in the hand. “FIVE!”…

“FOUR!”…

“THREE!”…

“TWO!”…

“ONE!”…

…and whose name will be yelled?

Kawhi and Kobe

In 2016, if one were to be asked to describe Kawhi Leonard in one word, most people would say: “Defensive”. Kawhi has been described to have the fastest hands in the NBA, the most relentless man-defense, and is praised as a “rhythm destroyer” by many great players, including Kobe Bryant. Leonard has had a prominent career already as he has attained an NBA All-Rookie Team award, a Finals MVP award, two All-Defensive Team mentions, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and one All-NBA Team spot. Though he’s racking up more honors than most players do in their entire career, Kawhi’s offense hasn’t matched up to his defensive prowess. Or has it? If you’ve seen Kawhi Leonard in action recently, you’d think that Michael Jordan’s NBA spirit has found a new host in Leonard. But maybe MJ isn’t the correct comparison…

Kawhi Leonard has recently transformed his game from being not only a defensive beast, but as an offensive threat as well. From the smooth shiftiness to the aggressive driving to the nearly impossible closely contested shots, Kawhi’s game has become the near mirror image of Kobe Bryant; arguably one the greatest players to play the game, Kobe has gifted Kawhi Leonard and the entire Spurs franchise with a little bit of his Mamba Magic. After a meeting between the Spurs and the Lakers last year, Kobe stuck around after the game to have some words with the Spurs’ head coach, Gregg Popovich. Both Pop and Kobe saw the immense potential in the young Kawhi. However, though the Spurs have had phenomenal players walk through their franchise, they haven’t had an elite scorer. Because of this, Popovich asked Kobe to help implement a little bit of himself into the young star.

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Though it is unclear of what Kobe did to help Leonard, it is quite evident that Kawhi has a little bit of mamba mentality in him now. Leonard has been playing at an entirely new level offensively, embarrassing defenders and making some very Kobe-esque decisions along the way. Even Sacramento Kings superstar center Demarcus Cousins said that he saw “flashes of Kobe” in Kawhi’s game. So far this season, Kawhi is averaging a whopping 25 PPG in his 5th year in the NBA, the same as Kobe in his 6th year. With these statistics in mind, could Kawhi match Kobe’s name? Or will “Kawhi” be the new “Kobe”? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure—the fans are going to thoroughly enjoy the impact that Kawhi has for the Spurs for many years to come.