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- John Wall told ESPN he, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose are “always going to be rivals.”
- The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 113-87, on Nov. 26.
- Signing Irving to a long-term deal “was the beginning of our historical summer,” per Dan Gilbert.
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall told ESPN on Thursday that he, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose are “always going to be rivals.”
“There’s a new guard in the East, and John Wall of the Washington Wizards says he is one of a trio of court generals at the top who will be forever intertwined along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Chicago’s Derrick Rose.
“‘I think between me, [Irving] and Derrick, we’re always going to be rivals, in my opinion,’ Wall told ESPN.com before the Wizards’ 113-87 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday. ‘Number one picks, all in the Eastern Conference, I think it’s going to be a battle for a long time, I mean as long as everybody is healthy and playing. That’s what everybody is going to want to see.’
“Rose went No. 1 in 2008, followed by Wall in 2010 and Irving in 2011.
“All three players’ teams figure to be a part of the playoffs this season, with Washington owning the conference’s No. 2 record, Chicago holding No. 3 and Cleveland at No. 7 despite a rocky start going into Wednesday’s games. The postseason is where rivalries tend to flourish in the NBA, and Wall’s Wizards beat the Bulls in the first round last spring with Rose sidelined because of injury.
“Irving has yet to make the playoffs in his first three seasons. In the absence of any bad blood from intense playoff battles between them so far, both Wall and Irving were effusive in their praise of one another.
“‘He makes their team go,’ Irving said of Wall after shootaround Wednesday. ‘He’s such a great point guard in our league and he just makes everybody better out there. And that’s what separates him from all the guards. He has a change of pace now that he didn’t have in his first year, but now the game is slowing down for him so much and he’s become so much better.’
“While Wall has had a taste of the playoffs that Irving is still waiting for, the Cavs point guard got a leg up on Wall this past summer when he was named MVP of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain while the Wizards guard failed to make the cut for USA Basketball during tryouts in Las Vegas.
“I think between me, [Irving] and Derrick [Rose], we’re always going to be rivals…”
“Despite the snub by the national team, Wall had plenty of compliments for Irving in return.
“‘He’s a scoring point guard, you know what I mean? So he already could shoot the ball,’ Wall said when asked to describe how Irving has progressed since coming out of Duke. ‘He came in his rookie year and he had a lot of offensive gifts, offensive skills. I think he’s been getting better defensively and things like that are taking the challenge of guarding other players. This is what the league is all about. Trying to get better every year and improve…I think he’s still getting better.’
“They both have a ways to go to match the accomplishments of Rose, a one-time league MVP who has made the playoffs several times, but they both have their health, whereas Rose has been in and out of the lineup for much of the past three seasons.”
For his part, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert told The Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Fedor on Oct. 30 that re-signing Irving to a lucrative five-year, $90 million contract extension last summer “was the beginning of our historical summer”:
“‘The moment we signed Kyrie was really the beginning of our historical summer,’ Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said on Wednesday. ‘The fact that he committed to us long-term and just a few minutes after the time you’re allowed to have negotiations and extend your player, that is a major, pivotal moment.
“‘If that doesn’t happen, that has to put doubt in any free agent including LeBron or whoever. Because if your top player, who has been with you for three years, isn’t willing to extend, which is rare in the NBA, that would put a serious derailment on what we were doing. And he didnt’ hesitate. He committed. He believed in what we were doing and we believe in him. I can’t underscore how important that was.’
“…The Cavs made him their top priority this summer, sending a number of people to convince him to stay despite three straight losing seasons.
“‘His father was there and his agent was there,’ Gilbert said. ‘A couple of my partners were there, coaches were there, Tyronn (Lue) was there and Coach Blatt was there. It just felt good.’
“Other teams around the NBA were setting up meetings with free agents when the frenzy officially opened. Not the Cavs. They had their eyes on one player: Irving.
“‘It’s funny because we started the dinner at 10 o’clock but we weren’t allowed to talk about it until 12:01. And we go by the book,’ Gilbert said. ‘When somebody tried to bring it up, no we got 20 more minutes. We wouldn’t talk till 12:01. So at 12:01 we started talking and I think it was like 1:05 or something where we had shaken hands.'”