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Published: 9/30/2013

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Irving, Cavaliers teammates optimistic

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao, from Brazil, poses for a photograph during the NBA teams media day Monday. Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao, from Brazil, poses for a photograph during the NBA teams media day Monday.
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Kyrie Irving was named NBA rookie of the year in 2012, then played in his first All-Star game last season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard has set an even loftier goal for his third campaign.

"I want to be the best player in this league," Irving said. "In order to do that, I know we have to win a lot of games. But I'm the leader of this team, and I'm ready to take responsibility for it by helping us make the playoffs. This is the best I've ever felt coming into a season."

Optimism ruled Monday as the Cavaliers held media day at their suburban training facility. There were smiles, laughs, and even predictions of the postseason, which Cleveland hasn't participated in since 2010 with a player named LeBron James running the show.

Three years later, Cleveland is finally forging ahead. The Cavaliers went 24-58 last year, fired coach Byron Scott, and rehired former coach Mike Brown on April 24.

The Cavaliers aadded center Andrew Bynum from Philadelphia, point guard Jarrett Jack from Golden State in free agency, and made UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

"With the work that [general manager] Chris Grant did over the summer assembling this talent, and looking at the individual talent on this team, it's built to be a winner," said Brown, who compiled a 272-138 record as Cleveland's coach from 2005-2010. "There are people out there who are going to say, ‘Well, they're just coming together' or 'The team is too young,' but I don't look at those as excuses.

"We have to figure out a way to get the job done."

Having a healthy roster would be a great place for the Cavaliers to start.

Bynum, who last played in an NBA game on May 21, 2012, resumed limited basketball activities two weeks ago. The 7-footer underwent bilateral arthroscopic surgery on both knees in March, and no timetable has been set for his return to full-contact practices.

"Andrew is going to be on the court soon, but we're not going to set a specific date when he might be ready to play," Grant said. "Everything is good, though, and he hasn't had any setbacks. He's running up and down — full court at full speed — and is working like crazy here every day.

"If that means he's back in two weeks, great. If that means he's back in a month and a half, great. We're just not putting any hard timetable out there."

Though Bynum will not be medically cleared today when Cleveland opens training camp, the former All-Star said he "definitely" will play this season. He signed a two-year, $24 million contract that only includes $6 million in guaranteed money. He did not play a single game as a 76er last year.

"I'm not completely there yet, but I've dropped 18 pounds and am right at 290, and I feel great," Bynum said.

Irving missed 38 games to injury in his first two seasons, while center Anderson Varejao has only appeared in 81 contests over the last three years. Additionally, Bennett had left shoulder surgery on May 8.

Cleveland opens the preseason Oct. 8 vs. Milwaukee.



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