Dion Waiters hears the talk. It seems like Waiters always does. But that’s OK. It only seems to fuel him.
The third-year Cleveland Cavaliers guard isn’t LeBron James, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love. But guess what? That’s fine with Waiters. He prefers to be himself. He prefers to be a guy who can be another top option on the Cavs — a guy who will aggressively look to score and attempt to be the best fourth preference in the NBA.
"I’ve got to be aggressive," Waiters said from practice Saturday. "That’s me. That’s who I am."
When people discuss the Cavs and their high expectations, people are usually referring to the terrific trio of James, Irving and Love. Waiters is barely mentioned. At least not much (and probably not enough) by people outside the organization.
But guess who leads the Cavs in preseason shot attempts? Yep, Waiters. In five preseason games, he’s taken 68 shots. In Friday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, he attempted 15. Only four went in.
So, Dion. What do you think?
"You can’t miss a couple shots and stop shooting," Waiters said. "You’ve got to keep shooting. Unfortunately they didn’t go in — but a guy like myself, I’m going to keep shooting."
That’s what you call a scorer’s mentality. The Cavs already have three extremely capable scorers. Waiters thinks he can be a fourth. He’s always believed he can be the best shooting guard in the league someday. He’s smart enough to realize it takes more than just firing away from the outside. He aims to be a complete player. And most trained eyes will tell you that he is getting close.
"I don’t think he should lead the team in shots," Cavs coach David Blatt said of Waiters. "On the other hand, I don’t really care. I just want to take good shots and make them. But we’ll look at it. It’s something we really should look at and we will."
While Waiters wants to be aggressive, be the best, he promised he wouldn’t do anything at the expense of the greater goal. He said he won’t do anything to hurt the team.
"If I feel I’m shooting too much, I’m going to look for guys and try to play the game different ways," he said. "But I take the shots that are given to me."
He thinks it will make a difference. It will result in more wins. It will be good for everyone. His teammates and coach seem to agree. Waiters doesn’t have to be on the outside of the Big Three. Perhaps it can be the Big 3-A.
"They’re going to say Big Four at the end of the year, or Big Five," Waiters said. "I like being that dark horse."
Love expected to play
After missing Friday’s game to rest, Love returned to practice Saturday. He is expected to return to game action Monday, when the Cavs meet the Chicago Bulls at Ohio State.
For one reason or another, Love, James and Irving have played just one preseason game together — the opener against Maccabi Tel Aviv. James said he will not play in the preseason finale at Memphis on Wednesday.
But he doesn’t think the Big Three’s limited time together is anything to fret over.
"We definitely want to get some work in,” he said Friday. ”We’ve had some work in practice but you want to get some work in in game situations, too. The rhythm for us three is going to have to come throughout the regular season anyways. Even if we played all seven preseason games together, we would still need to go through things during the regular season to see what we like and what we don’t like as a unit.
”It’s not concerning.”
Shawn Marion also skipped Friday’s game, but is expected to play Monday.