Dion Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points in Cleveland's win over Denver.
Random dribbles on the Cavaliers as they return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday:
1. Maybe I should care more about Dion Waiters and national anthem-gate, but I don’t. I even tried. And I still can’t.
2. In case you missed it, Waiters stayed in the locker room during the national anthem for the Cavs’ game at Utah last week. It was reported by the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Waiters said he skipped the anthem for religious reasons — or more specifically, because the third-year guard is a Muslim. Waiters reportedly said he would therefore sit out the anthem. Or something like that. Neither Waiters nor anyone else really seems to know.
3. Before we go any further, let me add this: I respect the national anthem and all walks of faith. But why either is being mentioned in basketball stories is beyond me.
4. Here is what Waiters said from practice Sunday: "It was a big miscommunication. Big misunderstanding. I love my country. I love the United States of America. I’d rather be here than any place else. It was just a big misunderstanding on both parts."
5. The above is good enough for me. Case closed.
6. With as much as writers are expected to write, and NBA players are expected to talk, "big misunderstandings" are bound to happen. With as much as reporters are expected to come up with big news on the most popular team in the NBA — well, you get the picture. The Cavs can’t eat, drink, sleep or pray without making headlines.
7. This isn’t anyone’s fault. The Cavs stunk the past four years and no one cared. Merchandise sales, concession sales and attendance were way down. Now LeBron James has returned, the the Cavs are winning big (or at least should be soon) and everyone will be deep in their business all year.
8. Can the extra attention be a pain in Cavs’ behinds? Oh, you’d better believe it. But it sure beats the alternative — when sports fans basically treated the Cavs like a minor-league lacrosse organization. The only people who gave a hoot were the die-hards. And sorry, die-hards alone don’t pay the bills.
9. Anyway, back to Waiters. What matters to his teammates and coach is how he’s adapted on the floor. I’ve been a big advocate of keeping Waiters in the starting lineup. I felt Cavs coach David Blatt moved Waiters to a bench role way too soon (after three games). Well, turns out I blamed the wrong person.
10. Waiters on coming off the bench: "I knew it was going to happen sooner than later. I was actually thinking about it myself because it’s better for the team. I went to coach and told him it might just be better for me to come off the bench, by myself."
11. Some of this stuff with Waiters is plain weird. Anyone can see that. But most of it is overblown. Waiters is truly a unique individual, for sure. But he is someone who fits well with this team. You have to like what you witnessed from him in Friday’s win over Denver, and the edge he brings overall. He’s not the perfect person or player. But he is valuable, and the Cavs can see that.
12. As for the Pelicans, well, they’re no joke. Third-year big man Anthony Davis is considered a legitimate NBA MVP candidate — and the Pelicans are coming off a win at defending champion San Antonio. Davis finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and a whopping SIX blocked shots. He is an interior problem for anybody. The Cavs, in particular, have struggled in that area.
13. James leads the Cavs at 23.4 points per game. Kyrie Irving is next at 20 points, followed by Kevin Love at 18 (and 11.2 rebounds). And Cavs fans should love this: Starting center Anderson Varejao and backup Tristan Thompson are each averaging 10.4 points. Thompson is pulling down 6.6 boards; Varejao is at 6.2.
14. In case you missed it, the Cavs announced Sunday backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova will miss a month or more with a left knee sprain. Also, Waiters suffered a lower back contusion in the win over Denver. He is questionable for Monday.
15. I know you were probably already aware of the Delly and Waiters situations. But if there’s one thing you’ll learn about my random dribbles, it’s that I refuse to stop on unlucky No. 13. I’m honestly superstitious that way. So there you have it. Have a great day and talk to you from Cavs-Pelicans.