SH Blog: Kyrie Irving’s an All-Star, but still has work to do defensively

This past week, the NBA’s second returns of All-Star voting were made public. To nobody’s surprise, with 258,193 tallies, Kyrie Irving was fourth in voting among Eastern Conference guards – well behind Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams but comfortably ahead of Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton and Jrue Holiday.

One way or another, the 6-1 guard will be in Houston as part of All-Star Weekend (Saturday or Sunday?) competing on behalf of the Eastern Conference; Irving’s natural ability to put the ball in the hoop from almost anywhere on the court, along with his willingness to dime an open teammate, allow him to fit in seamlessly among the NBA’s uber-elite.

Despite sitting out most of his freshman season at Duke thanks to a freak toe/foot injury, Irving jumped into the NBA and made his presence felt immediately.

Without a training camp as a result of the lockout, Irving still averaged 22.7 points (46.3% FG, 40% 3FG), 5.6 dimes, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game for a depressed and upset Cleveland Cavaliers fan base that had seen it’s 2009-10 season’s 61-21 record fall to 19-63 in 2010-11 after LeBron James’ departure.

During his rookie season, Irving led Cleveland to a two win increase (21-45) and won Rookie of the Year honors; once again, there was cause for optimism in the Buckeye State. Fans now had the opportunity to look forward to a consistent, humble and extremely talented point guard on a nightly basis.

In his second season Irving has been trying to build upon his masterful rookie season, which inspired the boss-man, Chris Sheridan, to make Irving his preseason choice for 2012 MVP. (Gimme a 12-game winning streak, Drew, to get you back in the discussion-CS)

On a youthful team that’s struggling to find ways to win ball games, perhaps it’s fitting that Irving is still trying to find ways to dominate the game on both ends of the floor. Jodie Valade’s report from a few weeks ago in the Cleveland Plain Dealer briefly revealed how Byron Scott and Irving feel regarding his current mentality and output at the defensive end:

“Last week, Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a broken left finger and Byron Scott was reminded all over again why as good as Irving is, as valuable as he is to the success of the Cavaliers, he still has much to work on. On the one hand, the Cleveland guard faced Kobe Bryant in a battle against the Lakers star, and held his own. He scored a career-high 41 points against the New York Knicks a few days later. He also had to be removed from defending Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and the Knicks’ Raymond Felton when both guards found points too easily. Early against Toronto Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ top defender, Alonzo Gee, switched to guard Jose Calderon when he scored 11 points in the first quarter. For Irving, it’s not enough simply to score points. “I want it all,” Scott said. “I’m serious. I do. I want him to be a complete basketball player. That means giving it on both ends every single night. If you ask Kyrie he wants to be a complete basketball player. From that standpoint I’m going to be very demanding. The biggest thing with him is he’s getting to that point where he has to want to take that challenge every single night.” Irving admits he might have taken a step back in defense recently, and said part of his job also is pressuring opposing point guards into playing tough defense on him. “It’s just finding a balance,” Irving said. “I need to keep my man from scoring, and stay solid the whole entire game.”

You’ve heard the cliche sayings, like: “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships,” or “A players offense is only as good as his defense.”

So, how can Kyrie Irving raise his defense to become dominant at the NBA level?

Here are three areas that will help Kyrie to become the defender, and all-around dominant player, that he yearns to become:

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