Akron Beacon Journal beat writer Jason Lloyd criticizes Kyrie Irving after All-Star starting nod

Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

The Cavaliers have a 21 year point guard starting for the East in next month's All-Star game. Awesome, right? Maybe not.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was just named one of the Eastern Conference's starting guards in next month's All-Star game in New Orleans. It will be Irving's second All-Star game, a feat all the more impressive given his age: the star is still only 21 years old. Cleveland fans aren't universal in their praise and excitement for the third year Duke product.

It makes sense. It was fun seeing Irving get attention and praise last season in an otherwise dreary season. This year? The Cavaliers are still playing bad basketball, and Kyrie Irving hasn't appeared to take the third year leap that many expected. And truth be told, a lot of the criticism stems to the end of last season, when Irving came back from his first All-Star weekend experience and played poorly. He skipped out on fan appreciation night and passed on a chance to defend Byron Scott amid rumors of his possible firing. We wrote about it here.

The criticism was given more credibility by Cavs beat writer Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal tonight.

I don't know if it was that bad. But it was bad. Go read the whole thing, but here are some relevant samples.

Who will Kyrie Irving be when he returns from New Orleans?

Something changed within Irving last season, and it coincided with his return from All-Star weekend. It was evident to anyone around the team, particularly former coach Byron Scott, who told me in the days before he was fired, "I haven’t changed, but he has."

Lloyd talks at length about Kyrie's struggles defending mediocre point guards. He doesn't really mention the team defense or the defensive system to give context to the criticism.

He is 80-193 with the Cavs, and certainly that isn’t all his fault. The Cavs didn’t give him much help the last couple of years. That was supposed to change this season, only it hasn’t. If he is truly the leader, then Irving has to own some of that.

Instead he doesn’t have to because 860,221 people voted for him. That’s about 56,000 more votes than Chris Paul received for this All-Star game, which is astonishing since Paul plays in Los Angeles and is widely (and rightfully) regarded as the NBA’s best point guard. That’s where Irving is trying to get, but he won’t as long as journeymen like D.J. Augustin and the like continue tormenting him. And starting in the All-Star game only re-enforces the misconception Irving is blameless in all of this.

In Irving's last 20 games he is averaging 23 points and 7 assists per game on 47/43/89 shooting. His turnover rate has decreased dramatically since his rookie season. After getting off to an awful start shooting the ball this season, he has rebounded and his offense is better than ever. His defense? Not great. But I don't think it's in the neighborhood of what people suggest it is.

My take: this article doesn't get written if Kyrie makes more jumpers in November. He didn't, and the consternation among fans and now the media that started building last spring has reached this point. What do you guys think?

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