The Cleveland Cavaliers were well represented, if you don’t count this issue with Kyrie Irving, in the All Star weekend’s events. Dion Waiters put on a show with Tim Hardaway Jr. and was a possible candidate for the MVP award in the Rising Stars Challenge. Kyrie Irving lit up the All Star Game last night and won the MVP award. For a team far under .500 but on a 4 game winning streak this is a great sign going into the second half. Yet these performances also raise a specific concern, one that we must go to another sport to try to best explain.
The Home Run Derby
The Major League Baseball All Star Weekend has a showcase of its own. Similar to the Dunk Contest, of old, the Home Run Derby has drawn major attention throughout the years. Star sluggers take to the plate with a chance to clobber as many homers as they can before committing 10 “outs” (Any non-homerun). It can be an exciting spectacle for fans and players seem to enjoy participating and watching the event. Legends can be made of long shots, number of homers hit in a row and overall score. Yet a problem often occurs after the Derby for the players, the return to in game competition.
“The Home Run Derby Curse” has been talked about for years. There are a number of attempts to quantify the curse, including this one here, that is much more real then the fabled “Madden Curse.” The problem with the Home Run Derby is the hitters changing of their batting swing to attempt to hit homeruns. Instead of taking normal swings like they would in regular game situations, players drop their shoulder a bit to get the type of height needed to get it out of the park. They obviously swing harder as well. When they return to the day to day grind of the regular lineup following this exhibition their production drops. While only one event the change in their physical swing and their mindset has been proven problematic over the years. They struggle to get their swing back.
Irving and Waiters
The description of the Home Run Derby could easily describe the two main events for Irving and Waiters. Both games lacked defense, called for 1 on 1 offense and were glorified pick up games. Both Waiters and Irving were highly successful in these settings. They could play little defense, didn’t have to move much off the ball and could take over with their 1 on 1 talent. Waiters did much of this scoring for himself. Irving used this talent to both score and get assists. They also could reserve energy for only one side of the floor in the defenseless setting
Yet neither of them particularly played within a team concept in these games. No one did. These games are for players whose primary skill is isolation play. Carmelo Anthony, Penny Hardaway, Allen Iverson and many others have excelled in these games yet struggled to get over the hump with their teams. These isolation, ball pounding/stopping players can have great moments, can take over games but rarely involve their teammates and often struggle on the defensive end.
Irving and Waiters success show just how good of individual players they are and can be. It showed they can take over games offensively. It may even of raised each of their confidences in themselves. Like the Home Run Derby contestant who wins now thinks he can be a bigger power hitter then before. His swing is off, his mind set is off and his team suffers for it. Will Irving and Waiters transition back into real NBA teammates quickly? Will their exhibition success drive them deeper into the 1 on 1 game they seem to favor? Or will they come back more confident in each other? Will they see the opportunities they have with each other’s talent and make it work? Will the time they spent together during the break bind them even further?
Do you have concerns about Irving and Waiters having Home Run Swings? Do you have more or less concerns about their ability to work together after this weekend? What is your prediction for the rest of the season for these two and the team?