Duke's Irving skipping on-court tests at combine

May 19, 2011

Duke point guard Kyrie Irving brushes off suggestions that he might be the Cleveland Cavaliers' latest savior.

The consensus No. 1 prospect in next month's NBA draft is aware of comparisons with LeBron James, whose controversial departure last year for the Miami Heat sent the Cavs into a tailspin.

''The comparisons will come regardless,'' said Irving, who played 11 games as a Duke freshman and then declared for the 2011 draft. ''That's something I'm prepared for. As for right now, I just want to contribute to whatever team I go to.''

Cleveland, which had the NBA's top record in 2010 and second-worst mark this year, gets the first shot at Irving in the June 23 draft after winning the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's NBA lottery.

Ironically, it's James who has served as Irving's role model.

''He's definitely filling like a big brother role in my life, just giving me advice,'' Irving said. ''When I was going through the three-month stretch when I was hurt he was talking to me every single week telling me to keep the faith. That was really special to me to have someone in the NBA already giving me advice - what things to do and what not to do.''

Irving was in Chicago on Thursday for the NBA Combine. He will have pre-draft medical evaluations but won't participate in closed-door drills.

''I'm just going doing medical here - MRI and I did height and weight today,'' Irving said. ''I'm still working out around here (privately) but I'm not doing anything at the combine.''

Irving, who averaged 17.5 points in an abbreviated Blue Devils season, missed 26 games with a toe injury.

''It was a trying part of my life,'' he said. ''I've never been through something like that, never had an injury like that. It was a learning experience and I'm glad I moved on from that.''

He returned in time for the NCAA tournament and played in three games as the Blue Devils reached the Sweet 16.

''The foot's good,'' he said. ''I'm 100 percent healthy. It was a more serious case of turf toe. I tore some ligaments in my toe and we cast it for three months.

''I have to wear a protective shank in my shoe at all times, but that's the only thing. It's not a hindrance at all. It's just a precaution.''

Irving said he wouldn't have entered the draft if his recovery wasn't complete.

''I truly believe I wouldn't have come out if I only played eight games,'' he said. ''I came back for the NCAA tournament (because) one, I was ready and two, I just wanted to stop all the questions whether I was healthy and whether this toe injury was going to be a lingering effect on my career.''

Irving has been working out for two hours every day and is focused on ''getting in the best shape possible,'' agent Jeffrey Weschler said.'' He's looking forward to visiting teams before the June 23 draft.

The two-day combine concludes on Friday.


AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland and AP freelance writer Jack McCarthy in Chicago contributed to this report.