Saturday night: Put on a captivating, 23 point performance during the final round of the 3-point contest against some of the best spot-shooters the NBA has to offer?
Sunday night: Further prove he belongs on the big stage with the NBA’s top players?
Consider the trifecta complete and the weekend an overwhelming success for one of the NBA’s most talented and competitive rising stars.
His All-Star appearance Sunday was somehow the most entertaining of all. Irving stepped into the starting lineup in the second half, going head-to-head with MVP Chris Paul down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Irving, the youngest player in the game at 20, didn’t have the night’s flashiest highlights, but he did finish with 15 points (on 6-for-11 shooting), four assists and three rebounds. His most memorable play might have been a late tie-up on Paul when the Clippers’ guard was trying to get deep into some dribble tricks. Irving wasn’t shying away from the moment or backing down against the NBA’s best point guard. Far from it.
Irving understands the moments, understands that this weekend was an opportunity to seize in the spotlight and help his star to shine even brighter than it already is.
Not to say that he has not or does not work his ass off to put himself in position to be successful… But the kid is a natural. He has a flair for the moment and the personality to go with it and the entire league knows it.
It’s not supposed to be so easy for a player to come in and drop a 23 in the 3-point contest. It’s tough to get into a rhythm, as Ryan Andersen of the New Orleans Hornets explained on Friday during media availability.
“Very tough,” said Andersen. “It’s so unnatural shooting off the racks, the timing. You’ve gotta figure out which side of the racks you’re going to shoot off from. It’s very different. You don’t get to shoot that much to get warmed up, so you’re coming in cold.”
Somehow, Irving made it look as if he was a six-time 3-point champ… Not somebody who was making his first appearance at All-Star weekend as a star.
If you’re not used to these scintillating performances from Irving yet, now is the time to acclimate yourself.
Chris Paul’s All-Star MVP performance: As brilliant as Irving’s weekend was and as bright as his future is, there simply isn’t a debate as to who the most complete floor general in the game is at this point in time.
When you combine Paul’s mastery of the point guard position with All-Star teammates, there is a good chance CP3 is going to dazzle and leave the audience yearning for more.
That was most certainly the case last night.
Whether it was an alley-oop to Blake Griffin (there were a few), a no-look pass to Kobe Bryant or dribbling the ball through Chris Bosh’s legs, CP3 put on a 20 point, 15 assist performance that fans will remember for years to come.
Just as he’s done throughout the regular season (when healthy) with the Clippers in Los Angeles, Paul dominated this game with a maestro-esque tempo, read the passing lanes and came up with steals and scored timely buckets when necessary.
I highly doubt any of the other players in this game watched game film before they took the court, as this was an exhibition game and the weekend was filled with enough activities away from the court to keep players entertained…
But that’s exactly what Paul said he did to prepare for Sunday evening.
“I watch basketball all day, every day … I’m on this thing called Synergy all day,” Paul said, referring to the video technology service that feeds players film / analysis with the click of a mouse. “I’m 27. As you get older you have to start playing with your mind more than all the athleticism. I’m far away from dunking on people. That’s my not game. So I have to play with my mind.”
Paul’s dedication to the game and his passion for competition and, ultimately, winning, are as fierce as any single player the NBA has to offer.
These qualities were on full display on Sunday evening and if CP3 has his way, he’ll be competing on national television as the Clippers attempt to buck the franchises woeful history by making a deep playoff run.
Terrence Ross: “That’s the thing,” Ross said during media availability on Friday afternoon. “People want to see old school. People want to see new school. You’ve got to find a way to use both of them.”