Rod Strickland on Irving comparisons: ‘He’s on another level’

Kyrie Irving and the Celtics enter the 2018-19 season as the favorites in the Eastern Conference.

Former NBA point guard Rod Strickland, the godfather of Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving, says people need to stop comparing Irving to him because Irving is “on another level.”

Strickland has known the Irving family since Kyrie was in third grade. Irving’s father, Drederick, and Strickland are good friends and Strickland helped Drederick raise Kyrie after Kyrie’s mom passed away.

Strickland had seen Irving dribble the ball from time to time in the backyard and used to tell Drederick, “he’s going to make you some money.” The first time Strickland saw Irving play in an actual game was at LeBron James‘ camp and he says Irving put on an absolute show.

“People used to say, he plays like you,” Strickland told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “They was giving me that credit and I had my chest out, but once I saw him in the pros I was like, please don’t make that comparison anymore. He’s on another level. His creativity. His ball-handling, his shot-making capability, his jump shot, the physical play. I mean, he just has it all. And then he has that mindset, he has that killer mindset where he thinks, ‘I got it, give me the ball, I’m going to make it happen.’

“A lot of times, I watch AAU or high school or even in the pros, guys are out of control going to the basket. Irving is hitting with the right hand to the left hand and with the scoop but he’s under control.”

Irving has the best handles in the game and his ability to finish at the rim in heavy traffic is astonishing to watch. Irving’s first season with the Celtics was cut short after he underwent season-ending knee surgery in April. Before going down, the All-Star was averaging 24.4 points and 5.1 assists in 60 games while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Irving, 26, will be an unrestricted free-agent during the summer of 2019 if he declines his player option and likely command a max contract. He is set to make $20.1 million in 2018-19.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has said multiple times this summer that Irving will be ready for training camp in September.

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