Kyrie Irving caps great week with award


Kyrie Irving caps great week with award

CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving was rewarded for a week he'll have trouble topping.

Cleveland's second-year guard was named the Eastern Conference's player of the week on Monday after leading the NBA in scoring and carrying the Cavs to three straight wins. In the three games, Irving averaged 35.7 points, scored 40 points in a win over Boston, had 35 against Milwaukee and hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final second on Saturday night as the Cavs beat Toronto.

Those performances came in the same week that Irving was selected to his first All-Star team and named Cleveland's top professional athlete of 2012, when he was voted NBA Rookie of the Year.

``He's had probably one of the best weeks of his life,'' Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said after practice.

This is first time Irving has been named player of the week. It's one of the few honors that has eluded the 20-year-old , who was picked as an All-Star reserve but could be elevated to a starting role in next month's game after Boston's Rajon Rondo sustained a season-ending knee injury.

The coach of the Eastern Conference team will make that decision, and Scott believes Irving is worthy.

``I think it would be great,'' Scott said, ``but it doesn't change my message to him for next year: to get voted in as a starter instead of being selected as a reserve.''

Irving's heroics helped the Cavs (13-32) string three wins together for the first time this season. With a win on Tuesday at home against Golden State, they will have their first four-game winning streak since 2010, when LeBron James did everything for Cleveland in his final season for the Cavs.

In scoring at least 30 points in all three games, Irving joined James, Bernard King, John Drew and Kevin Durant as the only players in league history to record three straight 30-point games before his 21st birthday. Irving will turn 21 on March 23.

Irving was at his best in the fourth quarter last week, averaging a league-high 11.7 points and making all 10 of his free-throw attempts. In the final three minutes, he averaged eight points and went 7 of 7 from the line.

On Saturday night, Irving drained his long 3-pointer over Alan Anderson with 0.7 seconds left to finish off the Raptors. It was the fifth game-winning shot of Irving's brief career and his second with one second or less remaining in 85 games.

According to STATS LLC, Irving and Tyreke Evans are the only two players since the 2002-03 season with two such game winners.

During Cleveland's recent road trip, Scott told Irving he was being too passive at times and needed to be more assertive on the floor. In the past week or so, Irving has turned up his game. He scored 19 points in the first quarter against the Celtics.

``He understands we need him to be aggressive from the time he steps on the floor until the time he comes out of the game,'' Scott said.

Newly acquired guard Wayne Ellington has only played two games with Irving, but has already seen enough to realize his teammate is a special player.

``He's got it, whatever it is, he's got it,'' said Ellington, who came over in a trade from Memphis with center Marreese Speights. ``He's a great talent and he's only going to get much better.''


NOTES: The Cavs said center Anderson Varejao was ``recently'' released from The Cleveland Clinic, where he was being treated for a blood clot in his right lung. Varejao, who is out for the remainder of the season, became ill following surgery to repair a torn quadriceps muscle. He was seen at the team's training facility on Monday as he rehabs from the operation. Varejao will be on blood thinners for several months.

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Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson is starting to make people reconsider what they think of him. 

After the Ravens’ 49-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday, the rest of the NFL is starting to take notice about Lamar Jackson’s status in the NFL. Especially considering his spin move through the Bengals defense.

Hall of Fame NFL general manager Bill Polian recently admitted that he was wrong when he said that Jackson should be an NFL wide receiver during his draft process in 2018.

“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports. 

Jackson is currently building an MVP case for himself and is on-pace for over 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards of total offense. 

It’s a nice change of pace for the 22-year-old quarterback in his second year as a pro. Jackson had to face heavy criticism after he left Louisville for a variety of reasons headed into the draft. Even after he took over as the Ravens quarterback, those evaluations persisted. 

“We always knew what he was about,” Ravens center Matt Skura said. “We always knew his ability to make plays and all that stuff. I think it’s just people right now seeing it on a much larger scale and it’s just getting the attention now.”

At this point, however, it’s clear that not only is Jackson a quarterback, he might even be the MVP of the league.

Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, only four are starting and just two have led their teams to a winning record. Jackson leads all of his draft counterparts in total yards and total touchdowns. 

But as anyone in the Ravens’ locker room will say, the accolades don’t concern Jackson — only the record does.

“I think he’s more concerned with winning than anything,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “As individuals, we’ve all got people to prove wrong and things that we used to put a chip on our shoulder. At the end of the day, I know he’s more concerned with winning more than anything.”

Still, it’s noteworthy that it only took Jackson a complete season of starts, through two partial seasons, to begin the backtracking across the NFL landscape.

“If you watch ESPN or you watch TV, it’s going to come up no matter what,” Skura said. “Even on your Instagram feed it’s going to come up. I think for a lot of us, just in one ear and out the other as far as people pumping us up. You’ve kind of got to stay level-headed and ride the rollercoaster, so to say.”


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Hayden Hurst set on helping those with depression, anxiety with new documentary titled “Headstrong”

Hayden Hurst set on helping those with depression, anxiety with new documentary titled “Headstrong”

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hayden Hurst immediately saw the impact of his documentary last week when, just hours after it aired, people reached out to him to tell their stories. 

Hurst was a part of a documentary titled “Headstrong” that aired on NBC Sports Washington last week, which detailed his struggles with depression and anxiety as a baseball player. The documentary will air on NBCSN on Nov. 20.

Now, Hurst is reaching out to tell his story in hopes of impacting those who struggle with mental illness, as he did.

“I think it’s going to reach a lot of people,” Hurst said. “Some people even reached out to tell me stuff that affects them in their lives. It’s very cool, it’s very humbling.”

Hurst was a standout baseball player in high school and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 17th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He signed immediately and began his professional baseball career. 

But shortly thereafter, Hurst developed the “Yips,” and he was unable to throw strikes like he once did. On the mound, his hands shook when he attempted to pitch. Off the field, his condition began to deteriorate. 

He said he began to self-medicate and that’s when he started to seek help. 

After he retired from baseball, he decided to play football at the University of South Carolina and began to treat his mental illness. In 2018, he was a first-round pick of the Ravens.

“It’s night and day from where I was,” Hurst said. “Back in the baseball days, my lack of success in baseball kind of led to my off the field issues. I kind of self-medicated a little bit to make everything go away. Where I’m at now, I’m so much more mature, I’m so much more in-tune with the person that I am, I’m close with my family.”

Hurst is now set out on telling his story to help others who might be in the same situation that he was in. With his background as a professional baseball and football player, he’s hopeful that people will see his situation and feel compelled to talk about what they’ve been going through.

“I really want to tell my story so I get it out there and people can relate to it and they can see it and read it and see the silver lining in it,” Hurst said. “I think a lot of people struggle with things and not a lot of people like talking about it.”

It’s difficult for him to make speeches and speak with others during the NFL season, but he’s got plans to travel to Columbia, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida to reach out to people who might be in need of help in the offseason.

He’s already begun work in Baltimore and wants to continue to help through his foundation, the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation. 

For now, though, he wants everyone to know that it’s OK to not be OK. Hurst’s story proves that. 

“I think more people are affected by it than we think,” Hurst said. “It’s a sensitive topic and not many people like talking about it. I’m in a position where — this sounds worse than it is — I really don’t care what people think about me. I am who I am, it’s part of the make up of who I am and I’m going to tell my story.”