CANTON, Ohio — Dion Waiters had a lousy game, that much we know.
But perhaps Cavaliers fans should relax. Not to make excuses, but he was playing in his first back-to-back a week into his NBA career.
The result: Two points on 1-for-7 shooting in a 97-80 preseason loss to Milwaukee at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Article continues below ...
OK, maybe that is an excuse. But it’s a decent one, don’t you think? Of course, in Cleveland, the answer is probably no.
Not surprisingly, it was the answer in the coach’s office as well.
“He struggled offensively big-time,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said of Waiters. “I took him out in the second half because I drew up a play, and he messed it up. To me that was a lack of focus so I figured he didn’t need to play the rest of the game.”
Waiters, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard and the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, came off the bench in both preseason games. In Monday’s 91-85 win over Montepaschi Siena, he proved to be a real difference-maker, compiling a few key moments late in the fourth quarter.
But Tuesday, Waiters looked like a rookie.
That’s to be expected. A lack of focus, however, is something Scott just cannot forgive.
“You got to know the plays,” Scott said. “I can’t draw up a play during a timeout and then you go on the floor and mess it up. Second thing is, defensively, he’s still gotta do better off the ball. I think he’s doing a decent job on the ball.”
That’s not enough in the big scheme of things.
Of course, if you ask Scott, his prized rookie wasn’t alone. The entire roster could use a serious refresher when it comes to what their coach expects.
“I thought we took a step back as a team,” Scott said. “I thought we played selfish basketball. The Bucks played hard and shared the ball. That’s the way we have to play.”
C.J. Miles, who starts at the shooting guard spot everyone figured was reserved for Waiters, led the Cavs with 18 points in 22 minutes. That included 4-for-7 shooting on 3-pointers. Also, reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving contributed 16 points, five rebounds and three assists.
But when it comes to double-figure scorers for the Cavs, that was it. Only forward Jon Leuer, claimed off waivers this past summer, came close with eight points in reserve.
And even he didn’t escape Scott’s ire entirely.
“I thought he did some really good things,” Scott said.
“He and Tyler (Zeller) made a bunch of mistakes,” Scott quickly added. “We always talk about the closest big (to a made basket) taking the ball out. They didn’t do that for four or five minutes. I don’t know if that’s just a lack of focus, or guys saying they’re tired or whatever. It’s no excuse.”
There’s that word again — excuse.
Waiters can’t use it, Leuer can’t use it, and when it comes to the Cavs and their fans, no one wants to hear it.
• Waiters wasn’t the only rookie who messed up. Bucks forward John Henson got the hook from coach Scott Skiles in the second quarter. “I ran a play wrong in the first half and that’s why I got yanked,” said Henson, the No. 14 overall pick. “Deservedly so.”
• Henson played his college ball at North Carolina with Zeller, the 17th overall pick. Henson finished with six points and seven rebounds. Zeller had six and three, respectively.
• Irving didn’t start in the preseason last year, and has advised Waiters accordingly. Irving said he’s mostly told Waiters to keep the faith. “Something I struggled with (as a rookie) was trusting my instincts,” Irving said. “Trusting my instincts is what got me to the NBA. You can’t worry about those shots going in and out.”
• Scott said he will “probably” change the starting lineup for the next two preseason games. “I don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
• Cavs reserves who played in Monday’s game — such as Samardo Samuels, Donald Sloan and Omri Casspi — did not play Tuesday. Scott instead went with Kelenna Azubuike, Jeremy Pargo, Leuer, Kevin Jones and even long shots Kevin Anderson and Justin Holiday. It’s safe to say the first group looked better than the second.
• Scott predicted he won’t have a set rotation until the fifth preseason game. “We’re just trying a lot of things and seeing what parts work,” he said. “Hopefully, within the next week we’ll figure some of those things out.”
• The Cavs play in Champaign, Ill., against Chicago on Friday night. They return to Quicken Loans Arena to face Washington on Saturday.