Cavs' Irving already playing beyond his years

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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."

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.