Created on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 Written by Bob Finnan RFinnan@News-Herald.com @BobCavsinsider,writer
Kyrie Irving felt like he belonged. The Cavaliers point guard had a coming-out party in Houston during All-Star weekend.
He scored 32 points in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, captured the Three-Point Contest on Saturday and then capped off his weekend with 15 points in the All-Star Game on Sunday.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving said playing in the All-Star Game was the highlight of his weekend.
"The 3-point competition meant a lot," Irving said Monday evening at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "But playing in the game with all those guys, it was an amazing feeling to hear my name called out there and walking out."
Being on the court with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and some of the others, he certainly didn't look overmatched in any way. The 20-year-old looked comfortable in that setting.
"The confidence they gave me, the respect factor that they have of my game and that I have of their games, it was definitely there," he said. "I'm definitely fans of their games. That's what All-Star weekend is about, just showcasing our talents and enjoying the presence of each other."
He became the second Cavs player to win the 3-point shootout. Mark Price was first in 1993 and 1994.
Irving topped San Antonio's Matt Bonner in the finals.
"I got going a little bit," he said. "A couple of guys behind me were cheering for me. I knew I had to bring one award back to Cleveland. That's what all this was about — putting Cleveland back on the map. I was lucky enough to get hot in that last round."
Cavs coach Byron Scott said he wasn't surprised by Irving's performance in the 3-point contest.
"He told me on Tuesday he was going to win it," he said. "He thought he was ready, and obviously, he was."
Scott said Irving could talk more trash now that he's had success on a national stage.
"He could have come in last and he'd come in here talking trash," Scott said. "He has that kind of confidence in himself."
Irving played about 25 minutes in the All-Star Game.
"They told me that I was going to get a few more minutes than I even expected," he said. "I just wanted to be out there, regardless of how many minutes I played. It was an enjoyable experience, one I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
He said he's a bit worn down. The Cavs (16-37) host New Orleans at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN, their first appearance on national TV this season.
"I'm pretty tired," Irving said. "I slept all the way home on the flight. Now we have practice, looking forward to it."
Scott isn't worried about the minutes Irving played. It was all the extracurricular activities.
Scott said he used Monday as a day of maintenance.
"I want them to get their legs back and do a lot of shooting," he said.
He said on Tuesday they'd do more scrimmaging and get ready for the Hornets.
Irving has almost become the darling of the NBA. National broadcasters fawned all over him, and rightfully so.
"It's amazing, especially to have the respect of those guys I've been watching since I was growing up," Irving said. "The way that they talk about me is definitely a confidence booster for me.
"I feel like my work is just beginning. The target is definitely on my back now. I feel like the expectations that I have of myself now are even higher, and the expectations everybody else has of me are even higher. I'm looking forward to it. To have the respect from everybody feels amazing."
Scott said the target on Irving's back is growing.
"It's a bull's-eye now," he said. "He has to be ready every game. They are going to come after him. The competitor in him has to be willing to accept the challenge."
Irving said he had an authentic pinch-me moment when he ran into rappers Jay Z, Drake and 2Chainz.
"I got a chance to talk to all of them," he said. "They actually knew me on a first-name basis. If I would have randomly seen them on the street a year ago, they wouldn't have had any idea who the hell I was."
Sitting in the Eastern Conference locker room with Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and James was also exciting.
"Those guys, this is routine for them," Irving said. "They were used to everything. For me, I was just trying to fit in, honestly.
"It's a sense of respect. I keep going back to that, but the sense of respect in that locker room is unbelievable. Guys know that KG is the Original Gangster of the league. That's what we call him, OG. LeBron and D-Wade and Chris Bosh were all All-Stars and being around them was truly an honor."
-- Scott's heart aches for the Buss family in Los Angeles. Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, 80, died on Monday.
"He was one of the best owners I've ever been around," Scott said. "One of the best people I've ever been around. He was one of the first people to call me after I got fired in New Orleans. We hung out a couple times. People thought I was going after the Lakers job. They didn't understand it was a genuine friendship between the two of us. I loved him to death."
-- Cavs center Tyler Zeller had his No. 44 retired at the University of North Carolina on Saturday. Former teammate Harrison Barnes was also honored.
-- Scott said he plans to make no changes to the starting lineup.