When LeBron James came back to Cleveland, he brought the brightest spotlight in the NBA with him. Now every little thing that happens with the Cavaliers is news.
More than that, their struggles earlier in the season — and the reported friction with coach David Blatt, or Kevin Love not feeling comfortable — becomes fodder for talking heads across the land. It’s life in the fishbowl, and it comes with constant criticism.
Kyrie Irving says he’s been ready for all this.
Irving and LeBron are playing well off each other, and the Cavaliers are in as the second seed — and playoff favorites — in the East. Irving told Jeff Ziglett of the USA Today his past season in Cleveland prepped him for this one.
“I went through so much (expletive) last year. What happens externally doesn’t even faze me anymore. It’ll never faze me again ever in my career,” Irving said. “Once you stop giving a (expletive), and it’s all about basketball, everything will be good.”
He means “stop giving a (expletive)” in the good way — not letting what is going on off the court impact what is happening on it. It’s something that all the great players — Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, etc. — had to learn. For some, it’s been a harder lesson.
Irving’s numbers this season are comparable to his last couple, he didn’t see a dip dealing with the changes LeBron brings to a team. It’s a sign of that maturity.
Now we get to see that tested in the cauldron of the playoffs.