CLEVELAND -- Following the Cleveland Cavaliers' 100-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday that snapped a two-game slide, guard Kyrie Irving responded to remarks by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that Irving was unhappy playing for the Cavs.
Earlier Monday, Smith, speaking on ESPN's First Take, said the 23-year-old Irving would prefer to be out of Cleveland and suit up for another franchise.
"There's nothing to really address," Irving said after putting up 22 points, six assists and an 11-for-11 mark from the free throw line against the Pacers. "Obviously there's going to be some misunderstandings; it's part of being on a team. For me, as a maturing young player in this league, I know what we have and the opportunity we have in order to be something special. My communication is open with all of my teammates, just knowing what's going on and how I feel about things.
"For me, all that other stuff, what everyone is going to say, they're going to pick one player, it's going to change every single week. When they think that we're down and out, they're going to choose one player, so, for me, it has no effect on my life or what's going on. It's all about winning and winning a championship for Cleveland."
Smith's comments came after the Cavs dropped three of their previous four games, with Irving recording only one assist in a loss to Toronto and then being outdueled by John Wall in a loss to Washington in which Cleveland came out flat as LeBron James rested.
James was back in the lineup against Indiana and dominated with a game-high 33 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He said he was unaware of Smith's remarks about Irving but said the fifth-year guard responded the best way anyone can to an outside distraction.
"You go out and win," James said. "You go 11-for-11 from the free throw line like Kyrie did and you lead the team to a victory. Those are just talks and reports. ... I've been around it so long, I don't really get involved with it too much. We have a big point in our season right now. We need to continue to get better and get ready for the postseason. I don't think it affected Kyrie or affected our team. I don't think he [knew about it]. I didn't know about it, so, I'm just now hearing about it."
Cleveland, with its league-leading team salary well north of $100 million for this season and its position in the weaker of the NBA's two conferences, has enormous expectations on it this season to break the 50-plus-year championship drought in the city.
With those expectations comes scrutiny -- whether it be in the form of reports on a player's role (Kevin Love has been the subject of those stories) or as a comparison of how the Cavs stack up against the Golden State Warriors, the team that not only beat them in last year's Finals but is on pace to break the Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins in a season.
James was guilty of making the comparison himself earlier in the season, chastising his team for not being as hungry as the Warriors even though the Cavs were the ones coming off a loss while Golden State is the defending champ. However, James changed his tune Monday.
"I don't think we're the group to be looking at other people for motivation," he said. "I think we need to figure out and worry about what we got here [rather] than try to use other teams for motivation right now. It's a fine line when you're trying to look at other teams and use motivation from that. Us, we need to continue to work our habits on a daily basis and not worry about what [other teams are doing].
"I mean, we don't play Golden State again [in the regular season]. And if we're fortunate enough to win three rounds in the postseason, which is very hard to do, then it's a possible chance we could see them. But we shouldn't be thinking about Golden State right now. We don't play them again. We may not even play them again this season, so that should not be our concern."