CLEVELAND (Ohio) • While the stars in the National Basketball Association (NBA) often band together to form "superteams", one top player has boldly taken his own path in a bid to carve out a singular identity.
Point guard Kyrie Irving did not just depart the Cleveland Cavaliers and team-mate LeBron James, he demanded it by forcing a trade to the Boston Celtics.
Casting aside three straight trips to the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers, the 25-year-old decided he wanted to succeed or fail on his own terms.
"There comes a time when you mature as an individual and you make that decision," he said of his departure from Cleveland.
"I just want to perfect my craft every single day, and be in an environment where I can be taught every single day, so I can exceed my potential and see how far I can go."
All eyes will be on him in the season opener today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) against, of all teams, the Cavaliers.
PRIORITIES ARE CLEAR
It's my job to go out there and be the best I can be for my team-mates and ultimately try to win every single game.
KYRIE IRVING, playing down the hype that surrounds his first game for the Boston Celtics.
Irving has played it down and said his focus is simply playing well in his Boston debut.
"The excitement and the energy are there, but I think everything extra has been created by outside influence," he told ESPN.
"I don't necessarily concern myself with that because, if I do, I'd really be doing myself and my team-mates a disservice.
"Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I respect it. But it's my job to go out there and be the best I can be for my team-mates and ultimately try to win every single game."
The clash is already intriguing as it is a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals, won 4-1 by Cleveland.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, though, refused to place any added significance on a new challenge against the Celtics.
"It's one game," he said, according to ESPN. "At the end of the day, you don't win a championship by winning or losing the first game."
He did not clarify if James is fit to start the game at the Quicken Loans Arena, after the forward suffered an ankle injury in pre-season.
James never missed an opener in his first 14 NBA seasons.
The Cavs lost 11 consecutive regular-season games when he did not play and are just 4-23 without him since he returned to Cleveland from the Miami Heat in 2014.
However, Lue has confidence in his revamped roster. "With the starting line-up, they all can push it out on the break if they rebound the basketball," he said.
"Guys who can make plays, good cutters, good slashers. We also can space the floor. We have a lot of weapons. We've just got to put them all together."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
BOSTON V CLEVELAND
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