Cavs' Kyrie Irving named NBA All-Star for 1st time


Cavs' Kyrie Irving named NBA All-Star for 1st time

CLEVELAND (AP) Still not old enough to legally toast any of his accomplishments, Kyrie Irving joined one of the NBA's most elite groups.

And to top it off, he was named his city's top professional athlete - all in the same day.

Irving, the Cavaliers' dynamic point guard whose dazzling game belies his youth, was voted an All-Star reserve for the Eastern Conference on Thursday night, just hours before he was named Cleveland's top professional athlete for 2012, when he won the league's Rookie of the Year award.

``One of the best days of my life,'' Irving said backstage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.

Irving, who won't turn 21 until March 23, is the sixth-youngest player ever named to an All-Star team and one of only seven to make it before their 21st birthday. The other six: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas and Shaquille O'Neal are either in the Hall of Fame or well on their way to induction.

``It's a big deal for me and a big deal for the city of Cleveland,'' Irving said after receiving his award before a ballroom filled with some of the area's top sports figures and civic leaders. ``It means a lot. To be picked as an All-Star for the first time and be with those guys, to see those names on TV, it's truly a blessing.''

Irving was at home alone watching the All-Star selection when his name flashed on the screen. He admitted to a solo celebration.

``I did jump around,'' he said. ``I didn't do any backflips and cartwheels. I didn't want to get hurt.''

Irving said his first phone call was to his girlfriend and the next to his father, Drederick, who raised him and his sister after their mother, Elizabeth, died when he was 4.

``It was an emotional moment,'' Irving said, ``real emotional.''

Soon after, Irving received a surprising text from his college coach, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

``First time ever,'' Irving said smiling. ``I don't think Coach K has ever sent one of his players a text. I didn't even know he could text. I think his assistant sent it for him. My freshman year at Duke he told me never to text him because he didn't know how to text. So, times are changing.''

Irving said he's not intimidated about sharing the stage at the Feb. 17 game in Houston with the NBA's best players.

``I just hope I don't air ball my first shot,'' he joked.

Irving is the first Cavaliers player to make the All-Star team since 2010, when James was voted in as a starter. Irving is averaging 23.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds, but his selection by the East head coaches wasn't a given because of the Cavs' woeful 11-32 record.

Cleveland coach Byron Scott didn't do any campaigning for Irving, who scored 40 points on Tuesday night in a win over Boston. Scott believed Irving deserved the selection and was thrilled that his peers agreed.

Scott, who greeted Irving with a big hug when he arrived at the Renaissance Hotel, doesn't think a first All-Star selection will change his young star. Scott said it only make Irving hungrier for more.

``The thing that keeps him going is continuing to have new goals,'' Scott said. ``This year he's a reserve and next year he should want to be a starter. That should be his next step and in order to that he has to work even harder. The thing that is so good about him is that he's willing to work. He's going to continue to get better.

``And he's not 21 yet. He's well on his way to being one of the best.''

Irving's double win was perhaps the highlight of the star-studded event, which brought out some of Cleveland's top sports celebrities. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and new coach Rob Chudzinski introduced themselves to guests eager to talk football. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer received a warm ovation as did boxing promoter Don King, who wore a sequined jacket and waved American flags while working the room as only he can.

Doug Dieken, who has spent 42 seasons with the Browns as a player and broadcaster, received a lifetime achievement award.

The show was emceed by ESPN's Scott Van Pelt.

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The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”



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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.