NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: LeBron rubbing off on Waiters? — A few weeks ago, folks questioning whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers as presently constituted could reach its full potential this season. How quickly that narrative changes when things go well, and when LeBron James spreads his gospel of playing the right way to the likes of Dion Waiters and others. LeBron’s influence on Waiters, one of the targets of criticism when things go awry in Cleveland, was on full display in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Joe Vardon of The Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:
Waiters contributed 13 points in the fourth quarter, doing so one game after he didn’t play a single minute in the second half of a win Friday.
“I mean, he’s learning every day,” James said of Waiters. “He’s a young guy. He hasn’t experienced much in this league. For him to have a game like he did today, we needed it. We needed a spark off the bench. He was aggressive, he was decisive with what he wanted to do, and it was a huge, huge boost for our bench.”
In typical Waiters fashion, when the 23-year-old was approached after the game by reporters, he was several feet from his locker and on his way out of the locker room with the hope that he wouldn’t have to talk after the game.
When James’ prediction about being a scapegoat was brought up to Waiters Sunday, he said: “I don’t remember all that, though. I remember that but I don’t remember that.”
As only Waiters could.
Waiters, the former No. 4 overall pick for Cleveland in his third season, has gotten himself in trouble for wanting to shoot too much off the dribble instead of getting shots within the flow of the offense.
He’s been dinged for not paying attention defensively. He landed in hot water by skipping the national anthem in early November and originally citing his Muslim faith as the reason, then clumsily clarified his reason a few days later.
Sources said that Waiters was unhappy on Dec. 11 in Oklahoma City when Blatt chose to start Matthew Dellavedova in place of the injured James.
In Cleveland’s 95-91 win over Brooklyn Friday night, Waiters scored four points in seven minutes; Blatt left him out in the second half to ride the hot hands of Mike Miller and Shawn Marion.
It’s been a season of adjustments for Waiters, who was moved to the bench in favor of Marion after just three games.
“I was really happy to see what Dion did tonight, and believe me, it had very little to do with the points that he scored,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said Sunday. “When he’s engaged and when he is playing freely and when he’s not allowing himself to be disturbed by other things, Dion can really play basketball and I thought he did a great job tonight.”
Waiters’ locker at The Q is next to James’ locker.