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Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving share ‘competitive friendship’

NEW YORK – Brandon Knight did his duty Wednesday night: sitting on stage during the NBA’s lottery, answering a question during the ESPN broadcast and speaking to the media afterward – “just be a spokesperson for the Pistons,” as he put it. Like most players who devote hours and hours to honing their basketball skills to make the NBA, Knight didn’t appear to take great joy in this aspect of his job. But, hey, he gets paid millions of dollars, and he filled his role well.

But once his team responsibilities concluded for the night, Knight appeared to relax as he shared a conversation with Kyrie Irving. As Irving explained later, they talked about Knight helping the Pistons to big win over Cleveland while Irving sat out.

No wonder Knight looked so at ease – though, that might also have to do with his friendship with Irving.

“We have a competitive friendship,” Irving said.

It dates back to their junior year of high school, when Knight bested Irving in their first matchup.

“I can admit it,” Irving said. “He admits it, too.”

I bet Knight does.

Since, Irving has mostly had the upper hand. ESPN, Rivals and Scout all rated him higher than Knight in their recruiting rankings. Irving went No. 1 in the NBA draft, and – despite his desire to prove himself against Irving – Knight went eighth. Irving won Rookie of the Year, and Knight barely slipped onto the All-Rookie first team.

But Knight hasn’t looked second rate against Irving’s Cavaliers.

  • Against the Cavaliers: 22.8 points and 5.3 assists per game, 69 percent from the field, 72 percent from beyond the arc
  • Against everyone else: 12.2 points and 3.7 assists per game, 39 percent from the field, 36 percent from beyond the arc

Sample-size caveats apply, but Irving says those numbers aren’t a coincidence. Both players gear up for games against each other.

I, for one, hope to see this budding individual rivalry develop.

As elite prep players increasingly play national schedules with their high school and AAU teams, these types of long-term friendships are becoming increasingly common, but this one has potential to become special for two reasons. 1. Knight and Irving play the same position. 2. They play in the same division.

Knight, more than Irving, must up his play though to make this rivalry really matter, though. Though both players have similar ceilings, Irving is much further along.

“This is going to be a long friendship that’s going to last for years and years,” Irving said.

I hope that includes the competitive aspect of that friendship.

7 Comments

  • Jun 2, 20124:35 am
    by Max

    Reply

    I thought Knight had an excellent rookie year although many disagree.  It’s not like he was the first pick or anything.
    I’m wondering what the expectations should be on Knight for his 2nd season and how reasonable it is to expect him to meet or exceed those expectations?
    He needs to get a lot better but I think he’s at his best when he is confident.   He’s somewhat used to playing Irving so maybe he was more confident.
    The numbers against the Cavs are pretty damn good and I’m thinking Knight did okay against the central division because if you asked me, I would have guessed the Bucks as the team Knight averaged the most points against.  Any numbers on Knight versus the central division?

    • Jun 2, 20122:23 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I’m sure many do disagree. but not many who I’ve read here on PP. I think it is pretty close to unanimous that he had an excellent rookie season, just not that he deserved all-rookie first team. I certainly believe he was a very good rookie and that he was in a group of quite a few rookies with comparably good seasons. Some of them had to make first team, some had to miss second (except that they didn’t because of 12 rookies making the two teams this year).

      I’m sure Knight’s best scoring average wasn’t against the Bucks simply because of his Jan 30 scoreless game against them.

    • Jun 2, 20122:47 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      against Chicago: 11-3-3 on 43/36/100 shooting
      against Indiana: 10-3-3 on 39/46/50  shooting
      against Milwaukee: 18-3-5 on 50/47/100  shooting
      against Cleveland: 23-3-5 on 69/72/86  shooting
      against Central Div: 16-3-4 on 52/53/91 shooting

      You are right that he tended to fair better against the Central division than against other opponents. But his bulk/counting stats were actually not much better. he just shot much more efficiently. And the bulk of that, as you can see, was against Cleveland. In those four games, he was 13 of 18 from three. That’s just ridiculous.

      • Jun 2, 20122:52 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        His 36 of 52 from the field in those four games is pretty sick too.

  • Jun 2, 201211:19 am
    by MrBlockedShot

    Reply

    Good point Max. I remember a couple of games against Milwaukee where Knight played really well, I guess it’s like he has something to prove against Irving (of course he was #1) and Jennings (one of the best youg PG of the league).Don’t know why he was not so intense against other PG not so skilled but as you said I think he had a really good season overall. I’m wondering what were people expecting from him? a 20p 10a seasonbeing a #9 pick? he was inserted in the starting lineup, he had to adapt to NBA game almost with no preseason (lockout) and we’re well known for not developing young talents. And in spite of all of that, he put good numbers on the books. I think he has a lot to improve but he is in the right way. Most of all I like his athletism and his work ethic (hard to find among young players). He’s our best threat from beyond the arc, so it makes him even more valuable. I expect him to play a key role this next season. Maybe like 16p 7a with less turnovers and better ball handling.

    • Jun 2, 20122:55 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I don’t think most people expected more of him. But they also didn’t expect him to be a top 5 rookie. That is how meeting all his reasonable expectations remains consistent with not being considered to have had a first team level season.

  • Apr 9, 201311:42 pm
    by hair chalk coloring

    Reply

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