Everyone filled out their brackets early in the week when there was very little buzz around Duke guard Kyrie Irving returning. When the word hit the Bull City, most of us expected that if he did come back, he wouldn’t really be that big of a factor considering that Irving had missed so much time. Let’s face it, Irving has played in only a handful of games and although he is one of the premier guards in the nation, missing that much time could not be beneficial to his game.
In most cases when a guy returns at the end of the year, it’s hard to work him into the rotation. Especially when you are one of the top four teams in the nation like Duke. The Devils have won so many games using a system of plays and substitution that benefit what they had left on their roster after all of the injuries. For real basketball fans, you remember when Jameer Nelson returned to the Orlando Magic in the finals a few years ago and it killed the chemistry of the team. The Magic had a system of guards in place but everyone’s timing was interrupted when Nelson returned.
This year Irving has returned to the Blue Devils, but instead of killing the chemistry, he has improved it. In his first game back against the Hampton Pirates, Irving looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat. He was setting the table for his teammates and also scoring 14 points off the Duke bench. Game two against the Michigan Wolverines was more of the same. Defensively he looked stronger than in game one and he managed to score 9 of his 11 points on the free throw line. His play was aggressive and he seemed to fit his role with the team very well.
Had I known Irving was going to return and look this well for the Blue Devils, I might have picked them to go further than the elite 8. However you can never be sure when a player comes off of an injury like the one that kept him out most of the season. Also it takes a special player, a special coach, and special teammates to make it work, and Duke has all of the above.
Needless to say, Duke fan’s may be taking their last looks at Irving as the NBA is calling his name loud and he may just be listening. Either way I have enjoyed the peeks of greatness that he has shown at times and I hope that he can continue to lead his team with effort and hard work.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!