Kyrie Irving holds himself accountable during Cavs' bad stretch

ByRamona Shelburne ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

CHICAGO -- After the Cleveland Cavaliers were blown out Monday night in San Antonio, Kyrie Irving was so frustrated by his performance that the only thing he could think of to do was go back onto the court and shoot.

"I had to face it, had to face the music," Irving said Wednesday after the Cavaliers practiced in Chicago ahead of a game against the Bulls on Thursday. "I think we all had to do it. But me more importantly, I had to look in the mirror and just wasn't doing enough. I need to demand more out of myself and do it at a high level."

Irving tied a career-worst plus-minus rating of minus-29 as he scored just eight points on 4-of-13 shooting against the Spurs.

Afterward, Irving came into the Cavs locker room, buried his feet in a bucket of ice and covered his head with a towel as he had an extended and emotional conversation with LeBron James in front of his locker. Wednesday he declined to elaborate on the nature of the conversation with James, saying it was "private."

But he acknowledged the Cavs' recent struggles -- Cleveland has lost four of its past six games to drop out of first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since mid-November -- have worn on him. Irving said he's holding himself responsible for reintegrating Kevin Love and J.R. Smith back into the system, after both missed extensive time with injuries.

"I have to do my best as a point guard to integrate J.R. and K-Love and get our starting five back to having the continuity. It hasn't been perfect, to say the least," Irving said. "There's definitely been some ups and downs and disagreements. But as adults and professionals we just have to figure it out. I think it just starts with our practice habits and what we demand out of each other. Just holding each other accountable."

Irving said he's particularly sensitive to anything that resembles complacency at this point in the season.

"You can't rely in just thinking that one championship is enough," Irving said. "It's natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a muthaf---- you want two, you want three, you want four, like you say you do. And I want more. I'm going to go take it. My job as one of the leaders on the team is to bring my guys with me."

Asked how coming back from this recent run of poor play compares with coming back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, Irving said there was no comparison.

"The emotion is different. Everyone has grown," he said. "Everyone has kind of gone their own way and now we come into a head where we've got to figure it out."

What's disappointing, Irving said, is that the Cavs have largely the same core as the team that rallied to win Cleveland's first title in 52 years last year.

"We know we have the culture here. We know we have the guys," he said. "We know when we're not playing up to our level. We just allow it to pass and pass and it turns out to kind of be a s--- show.

"We need it. It's just a wake-up call, so. Whatever you want to call it, we know what to expect from one another, we've done it at a high level. Now we gotta do it at an even different level."

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