Cavs' Irving already playing beyond his years


Cavs' Irving already playing beyond his years

BOSTON It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of Kyrie Irving's biggest role models while in high school plays for the Boston Celtics.

The fact that it's Avery Bradley didn't see that coming, did you?

"Avery was one of my favorite players to watch," Irving said. "He competes on every single play."

In the closing moments on Sunday, Irving had an opportunity to do what few ever get to do - win a game and out-duel one of your idols along the way.

Irving, who led all scorers with 26 points, did just that in beating Bradley off the dribble for the game-winning basket in Cleveland's 88-87 come-from-behind win over the Boston Celtics.

"It feels good," Irving said when asked about making the game-winning basket. "Especially, like I said, having the confidence of my teammates. They gave me the ball at the end of the game and trusted me to make that shot."

Bradley had never seen Irving up close until Sunday night.

Like most in attendance, he came away impressed.

"He's a good player; a good point guard," Bradley said. "He's real smart; he's a good player."

Such lofty praise was often doled out on Bradley, one of the top prep players who at one time was considered the best high school player in the country.

Many younger players looked up to him - Irving included.

But Irving is carving out a name for himself in the NBA, already playing at a level that many didn't expect this soon.

He came into Sunday's game ranked among the NBA's rookie leaders in a number of categories, most notably scoring (tops at 17.6 per game), assists (No. 2, 4.8 per game), field goal percentage (No. 2, 50.4 percent) and 3-point percentage (No. 3, 40.4 percent).

"Some so-called experts said I couldn't really shoot coming into the NBA, but it's just motivation for me," Irving said. "There's always been doubts about my game throughout my whole career."

Boston's Doc Rivers is a big fan of Irving's game.

"He's going to be better than a good player; he's going to be a star," Rivers said prior to Sunday's game. "He has a shot at that."

Following the loss, Rivers pointed out how down the stretch, it was Irving who was the biggest difference-maker for the Cavs.

"He dominated the fourth quarter," Rivers said. "He single-handedly, in my opinion, willed that win for them."

Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott knew the Cavs were drafting a talented player. But he acknowledges that Irving has surpassed his expectations in a number of areas at this point in his pro career.

"Most rookies when they come in, especially the time he's played basketball the past year and a half, I expected him to struggle a bit, especially from the field," Scott said. "He surprised me after about four or five games when he really started to get it going. He looked so much more comfortable out there. So I was a little taken from it."

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.