Since news broke that Kyrie Irving would probably play this Friday, Duke fans have been celebrating like it’s 1999…or at least early December, 2010. Obviously there is a good reason for this joy. We all remember how good this team was with Kyrie Irving running the point.
Of course the “experts” have been more hesitant. The one major concern seems to be “team chemistry.”
Me, I’m not buying it.
Basketball is not football. It’s a simple game. While there are a variety of styles, it’s not like there is a phonebook-thick playbook each and every player has to learn. So when people talk about “team chemistry” they’re basically talking about how will each player respond with the new player in this lineup.
In Duke’s case, will players like Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler be able to relent some of the control (I.E. shots) to Irving? To me, the obvious answer is…this won’t be a problem.
Irving’s been on the sideline for every game. He’s been a cheerleader and a coach. He may not have played, but he’s been involved.
As for on the court, it’s not like Kyrie is going to walk on, play 35 minutes a game and take over a game. At the very least, he won’t be starting, he’ll probably play just 10-15 minutes against Howard and I’d be shocked if he ever sees 30 minutes on the floor. The reality is, as good as he is, not even he can be in perfect basketball shape after sitting in a boot for three months.
This will still be Singler and Smith’s team and they will still be asked to do most of the damage. However, Irving at the very least can be a shot in the arm off the bench. He’ll allow Smith to switch over to his more natural spot at shooting guard for stretches in the game(something that has happened throughout the past few months when either Curry or Thornton run the point).
When Irving is on the floor, this should push Singler back to more of a power forward, which is actually good news. Since his outside shot has not fallen lately, he’s become more of a pounder inside (averaging over eight rebounds per game over the last few weeks).
The big question the coaching staff will need to decide is, if Duke gets in a close game against either Michigan or Tennessee, is Irving on the floor? I don’t have an answer. Hopefully after the Hampton game I will.
Now in that game, there are two things I want to watch for.
First, can Irving run? Can he push the ball up the floor with the same lightening speed he did before?
Second, will his quickness on the penetration still be there? I’m talking about the ability to go one-on-one with his opponent at the top of the key and beat his man to the basket? This is what made Irving special.
Stuff like making baskets, shot selection, finding the open man, I’m not worried about these things. Those are god-given abilities, so I’m not stressed.
I want to see what happens when he pushes off that toe in a game time situation.