Cavs' Irving making case for All-Star game

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Cavs' Irving making case for All-Star game

CLEVELAND There's no need to send out corny videos or some cheesy Vote-for-Kyrie t-shirt or any type of hype-driven propaganda to try and get Eastern Conference coaches to vote Kyrie Irving on to this year's all-star team.

Just look at him play.

That should do it.

Irving put on a one-man show Tuesday night in leading the Cavaliers to a 95-90 win over Boston.

The second-year guard lit the Celtics up for 40 points which included 15 in the decisive fourth quarter. His 15-point total in the fourth nearly matched the entire scoring output of the Celtics (17).

While Irving was well aware that the coaches voting for All-Star reserves is coming up soon, he said he wasn't thinking about that on Tuesday night.

"I was just trying to get a win," Irving said. "We desperately needed it."

But for a player who plays for team with as pitiful a record (11-32) as the Cavs have this season, these are the kind of performances that could be the difference between being an All-Star and an All-Star snub.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has praised Irving's play all season. And while Rivers has made a team's success a major criteria in who he selects as an All-Star reserve, he said it was difficult for him to not vote for Irving.

"It's a hard one for me," Rivers said in voting for Irving. "But he's playing so well. I think it'll be close, for him. I don't do that very often (vote for players on losing teams), I can tell you that."

Prior to being selected with the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland in 2011, Irving spent one season at Duke - similar to what Rivers' son Austin did last year prior to be drafted by the New Orleans Hornets last June.

"Maybe it's the Duke love," quipped Rivers. "I'm not sure what it was."

You can add Paul Pierce to the growing list of folks who are also impressed with Irving's all-around game.

He's tough," Pierce said. "He's probably the best scoring point guard in the league. The way he penetrates, mid-range, 3-point game, ... there's no scoring point guard like him in the league."

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.