Sportress of Blogitude

LeBron James has high praise for Kyrie Irving, says ‘he’s turning into a leader’


LeBron James, after what seemed to be a long and arduous process, is finally liking what he’s seeing in Kyrie Irving.

The young point guard scored a season-high 38 points on 13 of 23 shooting, including six-three pointers, as the Cleveland Cavaliers won its seventh consecutive game with a 103-95 win on Tuesday over the Detroit Pistons. Irving added six assists and three steals in the win, and won the admiration of his team’s unquestioned leader.

“He was the great from start to finish, he just kept it going in the fourth quarter,” James said after the game, per a report.

James didn’t end there when praising the development of Irving as he lauded the point guard’s evolving maturity and leadership, both on and off the court.

“He’s been great, both on the floor and off the floor,” James said. “He’s turning into a leader in his own right, and every day it’s great to see him improve. Winning is a great thing in our league. No substitute for winning, but it’s how you approach it every single day that puts you in position to succeed. It’s not about winning ball games, it’s about winning every day.

“That’s part of the process, and Kyrie has taken that full storm and if we continue to get that from him we’ll be very, very good.”

Way back when the Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled out of the gate, it seemed as if LeBron James had taken on a “Me Against the World” mentality as it related to his new team, despite the presence of two top-notch wingmen in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The relative ugliness of the trumped-up situation came to a head following a Nov. 6 game, a 101-82 blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, when James and Irving allegedly “exchanged words” in the locker room.

Both downplayed any notion of unrest by deeming the back-and-forth as healthy and the Cavaliers continued to meander through the early stages of the season.

Then, James went down with some back and knee in late December, issues that sidelined him for a significant stretch of games that continued as the calendar flipped to 2015. This left Irving, Love and the others to carry the weight in his absence. To put it mildly, the LeBron-less Cavaliers couldn’t get it done, losing seven of eight during their leader’s absence.

After dropping its first game with LeBron back in the lineup, the Cavaliers quickly recovered, rebounded and surged, and likely feel pretty good about their prospects heading into the second-half of the season. Riding high on a seven-game winning streak can have that effect.

Irving has made his presence felt during the streak. In the team’s last five games, he has averaged 22.6 points and six assists to just over one turnover. He’s also contributed 3.2 rebounds while draining an absurd 57% of his three-pointers during the same stretch.

Cleveland is now sitting with a 26-20 record and finds itself only 3.5 games back of the division-leading Chicago Bulls. After some treacherous times and reports of doom and gloom, things are finally starting to look up in Cleveland. More importantly, James appears to have finally developed some faith in one of his fellow “Big Three” cohorts, as Irving fills the much-needed role of reliable sidekick James needs him to be.

(photo credit: Paul Sancya/AP Images)