Kyrie Irving is off to a strong start in his fourth year in the league. You could argue, and I would, that he has been the most consistent Cleveland Cavalier in the young season. He has brought his usage rate down to accommodate LeBron James and Kevin Love, bumped up his shots from three point range and at the rim, and has accordingly seen a nice bump in his true shooting rate.
But while Irving has long been recognized for his status as something of an offensive wunderkind (last November notwithstanding), the concerns about his defense, or lack thereof, have been loud and pretty much justified.
In this past, coaches have often tried to protect or hide Irving by placing him on the less dangerous opposing guard. According to Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kyrie wants this practice to end.
"Based on the lineup, whatever our team needs, if one person gets going whether it be the one or two, I'm going to guard them," Irving said. "It's just more or less a personal challenge. It takes a team effort to guard everybody and for me, I'm either on the one or the two. We just have to figure that out."
Irving said he had a chat with the coaching staff and asked not to be reassigned.
"I told them that whenever I have a chance to guard the point guards, just leave me on him and we have our two guards guard the twos," he revealed. "I just have to do the job at stopping the head of the snake."
This is encouraging to see, but I still hope the Cavaliers protect Irving to a certain extent. At this point in his career, effort isn't the only thing keeping Irving from being a good defender. At the same time, it's a great sign to see Kyrie start to take responsibility and be accountable for his defense. Taking pride in defensive performance is an important step, and it looks like Irving is getting there. With LeBron and Love around, Irving is able to expend less energy on offense.