HOUSTON -- Kyrie Irving conceded this season has been more difficult than he imagined, he's upset so much attention has been placed on his contract and he admitted he doesn't always have all the answers to what is plaguing the Cavaliers this season.
"I needed this. It was more or less a wake-up call," Irving told the Beacon Journal following practice Friday. "I got away with so much my first two years. It wasn't a breeze, but everything came easy. This is the first year where every single night it's going to be a challenge. That's one of the things I'm getting used to and I've accepted."
Irving came under fire throughout the week, particularly after a Beacon Journal story last Sunday questioning the progress he's made this season, followed by an ESPN report Thursday that Irving wants out of Cleveland.
"Everybody has all these rumors and stories they're coming out with and it's all based on me," Irving said. "It's not really about me. It's about the team and what we're going through as a team together. Obviously, some things will be put on me and I take responsibility for that, but all that extra stuff that comes with it. . . . It's the business. I understand that. But that's one of the things I wish I could change. It's definitely not about me, it's about my teammates and what we can accomplish."
Irving is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 assists and 2.6 turnovers. He's shooting under 43 percent this season, by far the lowest of his three years in the league, and the Cavs enter today's game at the Houston Rockets 16-30 and coming off a humiliating loss Thursday night on national television at the New York Knicks.
Irving spoke last summer of taking a big leap in this his third season, but the numbers -- both individually and the Cavs' record -- suggest it hasn't happened.
"The numbers don't suggest it, but for me, this is the first year I was really challenged the whole entire year," Irving said. "I spent the whole entire summer preparing as much as possible to be in this position. It was a lot harder than I expected. That's part of life and part of this game. It's growing up."
Irving said Cavs coach Mike Brown challenged him shortly after getting the job, encouraging him to be a leader offensively and defensively, encouraging him to be more vocal and take command of this team.
"I just feel like what people fail to realize is I don't have all the answers all the time," Irving said. "I'm still the third-youngest on this team. I'm a 21-year-old kid trying to figure this whole thing out. It's a daily job and that's probably why it's been one of the toughest years for me. I'm learning every single day."
Irving took exception to the idea that he is "pouting" and said his morale was low last season following the All-Star break because he was injured and the team was losing. The Cavs had losing streaks of 10 and six games near the end of the season as Irving battled through knee and shoulder injuries.
"I've never been known for pouting," Irving said. "Just because I don't smile on the court when we're losing, I don't think I'm supposed to smile. You smile on the court, that's a problem, especially when you're losing like this. I think last year my morale definitely changed just from being frustrated and hurt all the time the second half of the season."
Brown said despite all the attention on Irving, he sees him improving.
"But because of who he is, an All-Star and all that other stuff, there's a lot of tension and focus on him all the time," Brown said. "That makes it magnified 10 times what it should be. But that's part of being who he is and growing into the great player he's going to be."
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