After three rounds of Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, it appears as though both sides have developed respect for one another. While neither team is shy to get off shots at each other, and the battles on the court are vicious, there’s less disrespect thrown around than there was in the earlier years of this rivalry.
Coming off his first NBA Championship, Kevin Durant
Appearing on the Bill Simmons podcast, Durant was not shy in his praise for Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.
Transcribed via ESPN:
“Kyrie is better than [Allen Iverson] to me.”
"I'm going from like skill for skill. His handle is better," Durant continued in praising Irving. "We might have to cut that out -- I don't want no problems with A.I. Y'all might have to cut that one. I don't want that to get out. I'm just saying I feel like Kyrie got more skill."
“I was telling some of my friends after Game 2, I was like, Kyrie, he just makes you happy when you watch him play," Durant said on the podcast. "You just smile when you watch him play, because for somebody to be that skilled, you know he had to work tirelessly at it. The stuff he has in his package is next-level stuff that you can try to teach your kids to do it, but you'll never be able to do it.”
"I've never seen nobody block [Irving's] layup, and he's 6-2. I've never seen one person pin his layup on the glass, not one. Because the spin he got on it and he don't got to look at it," Durant said. "I've got so much respect for him because I know how much work he has to put in to be that good."
In general, I really hate comparing eras. The game has evolved so much even in the last decade. As training improves, players get bigger, better, and stronger than ever before. The players of today take lessons from the past and build upon what other players have previously done to advance the game.
That being said, it’s likely that Irving’s game would have been more appreciated during Iverson’s era. As Durant pointed out, Irving really has the whole package offensively. From his ability to get anywhere on the court with his handle, his finishing at the rim, as well as deadly shooting from behind the arc.
With no Olympics and no surgery to recover from, Irving will finally have a summer to rest up and work on his game. For Irving the growth will come as he becomes more mature as a player. We’ve seen him play good defense, we’ve seen his play-making grow throughout the year, he just needs to gain consistency in these areas. Irving is capable of playing like a top tier point guard at any point, but him getting to that level consistently will help close the gap between the Cavs and the Warriors.