No wine, but Cavs' Irving still wants gold

Sam Amico

Last time Kyrie Irving tried this, he was The Man for Team USA.

That was the summer of 2014. Irving started at point guard for the Americans in the FIBA World Cup. Mike Krzyzewski commanded the sidelines as coach. The Americans won the gold. Irving won MVP.

Today, Irving is back, again playing for Krzyzewski, his college coach at Duke.

This time, Irving carries the banner of NBA champion. This time, he's again the likely starting point guard for the United States Olympic basketball team.

This version of Team USA also features names such as Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. The Olympics start next month in Rio de Janeiro.

If Irving's run overseas is anything like his first, things should go well -- both for the Cavaliers point guard and the Americans.

The summer fun actually starts Friday, when the U.S. takes on Argentina in Las Vegas (9 p.m. EST). It's the first of five exhibition games.

"They're very important," Irving said from Vegas, home of Team USA practice.

"The five games we have before we get to Rio are stepping stones. Every day of preparation has to be approached as if it's vital.

Or as Krzyzewski said, the exhibitions act as "an extension of our training."

Irving is coming off an NBA season in which he buried the biggest 3-pointer of his basketball life. That happened with time winding down in Game 7 of the Finals.

It also served as the most important three in franchise history -- the Cavs stunning the Warriors to take the title.

MEDAL OF HONOR

Since then, Irving says has just taken it all in and decompressed.

Now, he's going for gold. Real gold. Olympic gold.

"This is an amazing opportunity." he said. "Not only for those who are part of USA Basketball, but for us as an entire country."

Irving shot 52 percent from the field, and 50 percent on threes, in the 2014 World Cup. International point guards just couldn't contend with his shifty drives and pull-up jumpers.

The Americans biggest Olympic threats are said to be Spain (Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio), France (Tony Parker, Nic Batum) and aging Argentina (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola).

"We understand Rio won't be an easy feat," Irving said.

Maybe not. But if Irving can perform his magic of the Finals and the previous World Cup, he will become The Man in international play yet again.

He knows Cavaliers fans and U.S. fans are counting on him. And he likes it that way.

"I'm really excited," he said, "and I hope you are too."

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