Originally posted on Stepien Rules  |  Last updated 4/24/12

I understand they both combined to miss 5 of 6 FT's in the final two minutes last night to help seal the win for the play-off bound Memphis Grizzlies, but I don't think that's important right now. As it pertains first to Kyrie Irving, what I was most encouraged by was to see him once again play like the best player on the court last night. This being four games into his return from that shoulder injury, on the second night of road back-to-back, against a grind-it-out defensive attack led by Tony Allen and a frontline featuring bigs like Mo Speights, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph who are typically pretty serious up near the rim. Kyrie never worried about banging that shoulder, or whatever else, and he just attacked the basket again relentlessly last night and got whatever he wanted while he was out there. 

He shot 10 of 16 from the floor in the process, Mike Conley couldn't come close to guarding him, and finished with a game-high 25 points, to go along with 4 assists and 2 rebounds. Nobody else on either team scored more than 17, and while the Cavaliers did end up losing, it's probably not the worst thing that could've happened, even though I do not personally root for losses, technically speaking. The Grizzlies are a legitimately solid, playoff-bound team, and Kyrie Irving almost beat them by himself essentially, that's my main takeaway and what's really important. Next year he'll have more help too. In the meantime though, it's good to see him trying to end his season on that same high note that George Costanza tries to end his converations with. 

Tristan Thompson's Monthly Progression:  If you looked at Tristan Thompson's game logs you'd see the same thing I'm about to tell you. His points per game have increased each month, from January, to February, to March, and now here in April. In January Tristan averaged 6.9 points per game, February he bumped that up to 7.8, in March that number improved to 8.4, and now, after going for 12 points last night, Tristan is  averaging 9.4 points per game through these 14 he's played during the month of April. He's averaging the most rebounds he has at 7.4 this month too, and his field goal percentage has never been higher than it is right now either. 

While his minutes have increased obviously over the last two months, Tristan has been specifically more efficient this month when compared to the 17 games played in March. Or any other month for that matter. He averaged 27.1 minutes per game in March, for example, to total 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on .421 FG %. This month, he's up to those aforementioned totals of 9.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, and his field goal percentage is also up to .468 playing less than one minute more this month (28.0 mpg) than he did in March. That is quantifiable progress, even after going 3 for 12 against that huge starting frontline of Speights and Gasol last night. Just wait until Big Z gets done with him this summer too. 

From the PR Newswire - Kyrie Irving Inked Deal with Pepsi Max today:

"Pepsi MAX announced today an exciting partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers' star point guard Kyrie Irving through the 2012-2013 season.  Pepsi MAX plans for Kyrie include branded videos, extensive social media integration, retail activation, and more.

"After the success of Kyrie's video in our Pepsi MAX for Life promotion [see video below], we are excited to formalize and extend our partnership with him," says Lou Arbetter, Director on the Pepsi MAX brand team. "We love Kyrie's charisma, fearless attitude, and determination, and we feel that he's is a great fit with the Pepsi MAX brand.  We look forward to working with Kyrie to engage our consumers and his constantly growing fan base with some fun content and experiences."

In celebration of the partnership, Irving will take over the Pepsi MAX Instagram account (@PepsiMAX) on April 25th, giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the last home game of his rookie season.  In addition, Irving will be hosting a live question and answer session on May 3rd through the @PepsiMAX Twitter account to talk with fans about his rookie season.

"I've stayed focused and played hard on the court all season long," said Irving.  "I'm thrilled to partner with Pepsi MAX and really do some fun things.  I can't wait for everyone to see the creative ideas we have planned."

Beyond the fact that it's always good to see a Cleveland based athlete being able to ink a national sponsorship deal, this one seems particularly interesting to me. Based on the timing of the announcement, as well as what's mentioned in the release, it appears to have a social media based focused to it which I think will be a trend we see nationally moving forward. Maybe that's why it's being announced just prior to the off-season too, is also what I'm getting at there. With the Instagram Updates and Twitter Q+A's, it is good to see that Kyrie will have this type of platform to further facilitate his interaction with fans not only in Cleveland, but nationally as well. Maybe next season he'll even play an NBA game in front of a national television audience too, who knows.

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