He did not write a letter, he was not the first overall pick in this year's NBA draft and he was not part of a month-long trade saga. But Kyrie Irving may be the player most affected by the Cleveland Cavaliers' summer circus.
Despite being rookie of the year Award, a two-time All-Star and an All-Star Game MVP, the point guard has had his struggles during his three NBA seasons. The Cavs missed the playoffs every season, and Irving pointed the finger at himself Wednesday, telling RealGM's Shams Charania, "I haven't been a leader -- not at all."
Irving explained that quote in mored depth to ThePostGame on Thursday at the Jeep Summer Celebration in New York City.
"The leadership part is an ongoing thing," Irving said. "It's no perfect thing. It more or less just the truth about it. The first three years I was in the 'role of being the leader' and I didn't really know how to lead."
As the first overall pick out of Duke in 2011, Irving was Cleveland's first superstar in the post-LeBron 1.0 Era, but came with a different pedigree. The New Jersey native can create from the backcourt, but he is far from the scoring and rebounding force that James is.
Starting this year, Irving will shift into the role as second or third-fiddle (depending on Kevin Love's play) to The King. Depending on how many years James has left, Irving may not be the "the guy" for a long time. Irving signed a five-year $90 million contract this July. James signed for two years but has said he intends to be there for the long haul, which is fine with Irving.
"You're playing with the greatest player in the world," he said. "That statement speaks for itself."
Although he's giddy about playing with James, Irving said being the face of a franchise in flux his first three seasons built his character even if the on-court results were not up to bar.
"I was the franchise player and I had all the expectations on me, which I'm cool with," Irving said. "Dealing with expectations every day made me hold myself to a higher standard. That's what I've learned to do. That's what I'm still learning to do."
This summer, Irving is a part of the USA Basketball team that will travel to Spain for the FIBA World Cup starting Aug. 30. Irving, not James or Love, is the one member of Cleveland's new big three currently playing for the national team. Irving says he is trying to stay "level," focusing on USA's play while the NBA world crowds around his Cleveland teammates.
From the roster spot, Irving will get a taste of playing with NBA superstars before joining forces with James and Love. With that said, he is not going to become an alpha male overnight.
"This USA experience is not going to propel me to become the quote-unquote leader," Irving said. "I'm going to use this opportunity to play with a bunch of great guys and cherish this opportunity. I'm playing with these guys I've dreamt of playing with. I mean some of the best players in the NBA are on the wings. That's something I'm enjoying right now."
Irving is part of a loaded USA point-guard pool featuring Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Irving made a start for the Americans on Wednesday night with Rose taking the game off. During the exhibitions, the coaching staff has not been afraid to keep cycling through the guards.
Of course, Irving knows the head coach very well. Mike Krzyzewski recruited Irving to play one season in Durham.
"It's a great honor to get the opportunity to play for him again," Irving said. "That's something I'll cherish for a lifetime. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for Team USA, but also playing for my college coach. It makes my job that much easier."
Irving knew about his coach's style going into the summer, but he recognizes other players are enjoying the uniqueness of Coach K as a man who leads players from NBA stars to NCAA walk-ons.
"It's a comfortable state for all of us," Irving says. "He's not one of these coaches that is overbearing and all the time hands on. He allows us to be ourselves, to have our space, our time and do whatever's needed to get ready for the game and he respects us. That's all you can ask for."
Between USA Basketball exhibitions at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and Friday, Irving shot baskets with children along the East River on Thursday as part of the Jeep Summer Celebration at Manhattan's South Street Seaport. The event also included some soccer and ice cream sandwiches along with Rev Run (Run-DMC) and DJ Ruckus playing a DJ set.
"It's truly genuine and it's about the youth and community," Irving said.
Jeep, a USA Basketball partner since 2012, is donating $1 to the United Service Organizations for every use of the hashtag #jeepsummer on Instagram through Sept. 5 and nearly 40,000. Users of the hashtag can also win such prizes as a Jeep Wrangler, USA Basketball tickets and Jeep paraphernalia.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.