NBA: Irving has to chart his own course

Heat's Winslow, in town for Jr NBA training camp, feels he is a bona fide franchise player

After playing sidekick to LeBron James for three years at the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving is bent on being the face of another National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise.

Irving, 25, has handed in a trade request and Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow believes his Duke University senior and friend is ready to make the step up.

The 21-year-old said: "For him, it's whatever makes him happy.

"You've seen it in the past with guys like (Golden State Warriors') Kevin Durant doing what's best for them, not paying attention to the media. He's a good friend and I just want him to be happy.

"Hopefully, he can find that whether it's in Cleveland, maybe Miami, but we'll see. The most important thing is his happiness."

A four-time All-Star, Irving is coming off his best scoring regular season. He averaged career highs of 25.2 points per game and 47.3 per cent shooting from the field.

The Heat, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, and Minnesota Timberwolves have been mentioned as potential landing spots.

Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow is in Singapore to coach at the Junior NBA national training camp, which is being held at Heartbeat@Bedok. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Winslow also said that Irving has "learnt from one of the greatest of all time" after three years with Cavs superstar James.

"Hopefully Kyrie gets his opportunity," he added. "He wants to lead a team and I think he'll do a good job of it."

Irving has been to three straight NBA Finals against the Warriors, who won two of the meetings and went 16-1 in the postseason en route to this year's championship.

Winslow said: "They (Warriors) have a lot of those guys under contract for a couple more years, so they'll be top of the West."

He cited not "giving up easy lay-ups and dunks" as the way to defend against the Warriors.

"They get a lot of those because you're so focused on their three-point shooting ability," he said. "You could take away a lot of their easy ones that they get and just try to contest all their three-pointers."

He is in town to coach at the Junior NBA Singapore national training camp, which concludes on Sunday. Eight boys and girls will be selected on Sunday to be a Junior NBA Singapore All-Star. They will travel to Shanghai later in the year to watch the Warriors and the Timberwolves in a pre-season game with fellow Junior NBA All-Stars from South-east Asia.

Yew Jun, a 13-year-old camper from Zhenghua Secondary School said: "It's quite good (the programme), the drills are fun and I do learn a lot of stuff from it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2017, with the headline 'Irving has to chart his own course'. Print Edition | Subscribe