Author: Kurt Helin

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving admits first three years he wasn’t a leader, “just been a kid trying to figure it out”


To ask a rookie to come in and lead, to be the face of an NBA franchise is unfair to anyone. People remember Magic Johnson’s rookie year but that was Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s team until 1984. Michael Jordan took time to learn how to lead. It’s true of everyone.

Including Kyrie Irving. He was asked to do that, as are more and more young top picks. The Cavaliers’ point guard has quickly risen to be one of the top point guards in the NBA in his first three seasons, but on a young team he was just not yet equipped to be a leader.

While with Team USA in Chicago, Irving admitted as much in a conversation with Real GM (hat tip Waiting for Next Year).

“Everybody asks me if this is my year to be a leader … I haven’t been so far though, not at all,” Irving said. “I’ve just been a kid trying to figure it out. There’s no perfect way to be a leader, and coming in as a 19-year-old kid and having everything bearing on your shoulders, there are a lot of ups and downs. Now it’s about being the best every single day and not being afraid.

“I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing.

“Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.”

That’s a mature outlook from Irving. The kind a leader should have.

This is LeBron James’ team now, and guys such as Mike Miller and Shawn Marion are certainly professionals. Things will be much more clear in that locker room, there will be a pecking order.

But Irving just signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension — he is now by definition one of the leaders. That kind of payday makes that happen. Just now he has some good role models to follow.

Matt Barnes talks about how Clippers decided to let Doc Rivers speak for team on Sterling

Los Angeles Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

We should all be thankful the Donald Sterling era is gone. Oh, he’ll keep trying to be a nuisance by suing the league because he can, but his days of involvement with the NBA are gone.

Steve Ballmer is the owner of the Clippers. We don’t know what kind of owner the former Microsoft CEO will be, but he can’t be worse that the historically bad Sterling.

How Sterling’s demise as an owner started, with a recording of him making bigoted statements in a private conversation leaked to TMZ and made public, ended up impacting the end of the Clippers last season. They ended up angry and in the middle of a national media firestorm all while trying to work their way through the playoffs. Nobody was going to beat the Thunder with that hanging over their heads.

Matt Barnes is back in his native Sacramento and spoke with News10’s Sean Cunningham about how the team dealt with that.

“Everyone thought they had the answer on what to do and what we should do,” Barnes said. “Doc brought us in and talked to us the morning after it happened. We all got to air out our feelings, but we decided as a team for Doc to be the only one answering questions and for us to concentrate on basketball, and I think that relieved a little bit of the pressure.”

(You should read the entire post to read what Barnes said about a family tragedy he went through this summer.)

The Clippers are serious title contenders this year. At the end of last season I thought they we’re the third best team in the NBA, problem is the two above them were both in the West. That said, the Clippers should be better.

Los Angeles is improved because they have Spencer Hawes as their first big off the bench, who is a massive upgrade over Glen Davis and Ryan Hollins who were the backups last year. Los Angeles will have DeAndre Jordan in a contract year. Also, this is their second year in Doc Rivers’ system.

But most of all, they won’t have Sterling as a distraction at the key part of the season.

Morris twins want to keep playing together even after rookie contracts end

Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris

Through pretty much their entire basketball careers, Markieff Morris and twin brother Marcus Morris have been on the same team. Same youth teams, same Prep Charter high school in Philadelphia, then together in college at Kansas. They were selected back-to-back in the NBA draft in 2011, but a 2013 trade united them again on the Phoenix Suns.

Now they want to keep playing together, the twins told the Philadelphia Inquirer on a trip home.

One little problem: Their rookie contracts are close to ending and both will likely be restricted free agents next summer (unless they reach extensions in Phoenix, which is unlikely. Destinations could change.

“Wherever we’re together, it’s home,” Markieff said. “We just go out there and have fun. The game isn’t the same when we’re apart.”

“It’s a unique situation,” Marcus said. “We’re just trying to do enough so teams can see us as players, as players, and as a tandem.”

“That was our dream growing up – it’s our life dream to play with each other in the NBA,” Marcus said. “We’re together now. We try to make the best of it. Hopefully, we retire together.”

It certainly is possible that next summer the Suns could come to a deal to keep both on new contracts, although that will really come down to how they both play this season and mesh with a changing team.

Markieff last season injected himself into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation (fourth in the voting) after averaging 13.8 points a game on a .564 true shooting percentage as he did a lot of damage near the rim. There will be interest in Markieff around the league as he continues to develop. There will be interest in Marcus, too, the brother who prefers to space the floor more (40 percent of his shot attempts were from three and he hit 38.1 percent of them). However Marcus is not yet as efficient as his brother.

Of course, the real question in all of this is if they would take a pay cut to stay together. That becomes the real test.

Derrick Rose sits out first Team USA practice at West Point in precautionary move

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose played 24 minutes for Team USA on Saturday night against Brazil (and played well), then team USA packed up and went to New York for a series of practices at West Point and some games at Madison Square Garden.

To start that off, Mike Krzyzewski gave Rose Monday off from practice (he was the only of the regular players in street clothes).

However, before everyone in Chicago flips out, know this is precautionary and was planned according to those at the practice, such as Marc Stein of ESPN.

ESPN’s Fran Frascilla said pretty much the exact same thing on the broadcast of the practice. Rose is coming off multiple knee surgeries, even Tom Thibodeau is going to need to rest him this this season at points.

Rose has been impressive so far, showing flashes of his MVP self, and has has moved into the starting lineup for Team USA. This has looked like a great place for him to return. But there’s no reason to push him too hard yet. The USA has a couple friendlies this week and more practices, and things get serious at the end of the month.

This was the smart play by Coach K.

Here’s your Taiwanese statue of naked Kobe Bryant wrestling a black mamba

kobe statue


Well… it’s not Michelangelo’s David.

And I feel safe saying in a few years when they put a statue of Kobe Bryant outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, it will not look like this.

This is from the Basketball Art Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s a statue of naked Kobe apparently trying to shoot a lay-up/floater while battling and being fouled by a black mamba snake. For the record, the snake is biting Kobe in the Achilles, which is one of his recent injuries.

I’m no art critic, but I know what I like and… let’s never speak of this again. I’ll stick with the garden sculptures at the Huntington.

Hat tip to Lakers Nation.