Waiters shines on otherwise lost night
When Dion Waiters has a night like this, it gives you hope.
Yes, the Cavaliers dumped a 124-118 decision to the host Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Yes, they treated defense like some sort of nasty shellfish allergy. And yes, the Cavs were swept by a team that has one eye on the door, as the Kings gear for a move out of town.
But Waiters, man, that was something else.
And it's not just that Waiters scored a game-high 33 points. It's how he went about it.
He went 12-for-18 from the field. He threw some pinpoint passes in traffic to finish with a team-high five assists. He looked extremely determined on a night when too many other Cavs just sort of stood around and watched.
My favorite thing about Waiters, however, was the fact he took just three 3-pointers (and made them all).
A lot of folks think Waiters settles too often, and a lot of folks are correct. Clearly, it's easy for Waiters to fall in love with standing behind the arc and letting ‘em fly.
That's nothing new with rookies. Shooting jumpers is a lot easier than taking it to the basket when you're trying to cut it in this league. Or at least, when you're trying to keep from getting hammered.
Cavs coach Byron Scott has touched on this subject with Waiters, urging Waiters to keep going to the basket -- even when Waiters isn't finishing or drawing fouls.
Scott has also talked about how Waiters doesn't always get the call when he goes to the basket. But, Scott added, he needs to take the ball to the basket anyway.
Monday, that was Waiters.
Now, it's clear the kid is getting adjusted to NBA life. Scott insists he doesn't have a dog house, but if he did, Waiters probably was in it.
He lost his starting job to veteran C.J. Miles, a class guy and pro's pro who leads by example (as well as instruction).
And Scott said before the game Waiters will likely come off the bench for another two or three weeks.
Well, if the results are anything like Monday, it may be longer. But only because Waiters was so good in the role.
The Cavs (9-31) are clearly light years away from winning on a regular basis. They don't have much to get excited about when you're talking about basketball's bottom line (i.e. wins and losses).
They usually look like Kyrie Irving and four guys trying to figure out if they've been waiting all day at the wrong train station.
But that changed Monday at Sleep Train Arena -- and Waiters, folks, was the reason why.
Like many top-five draft picks, Waiters can be inconsistent, with a few promising games sprinkled in here and there. So this isn't to make too much of one game.
But if this season is about gradual improvement, about everything being (with apologies to Cavs GM Chris Grant) “a process,” well, then this game at least deserves a “C.”
The team lost … but Waiters got better.
Irving (15 points, 6-for-19 shooting, six turnovers) won't always be as regular as he was vs. the Kings. That much we know, because we've seen Irving at his best. This wasn't it -- but everyone is allowed an off night. He's never a reason for concern.
What the Cavs and their fans should be paying closer attention is the development of Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller.
Thompson gave another strong showing with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. He, too, is coming around quickly.
As for Zeller (13 points, seven boards), he probably hasn't displayed this much passion in a game at any time in a Cavs uniform. That's not to say the rookie center lacks zeal. It's just rarely evident.
Anyway, the Cavs lost another one here, and that's probably not about to end anytime soon. Basically, if you haven't already, get used to it.
The key to this season is for Waiters him to keep doing what he did Monday, or something close. He doesn't need to score 33 every game, or make all but six shots. But he and others like him have to show signs they're "getting it." Waiters and others like him did that Monday.
If that continues, winning will be the next logical step.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO