When the Cavaliers began winning with Dion Waiters in the starting lineup, coach Byron Scott stuck with it. Now after a brief stint on the bench, Waiters is entrenched again as the team’s starting shooting guard — despite posting better numbers as a reserve. Waiters averaged 17.1 points and shot 44 percent in nine games off the bench, compared to averaging 13.5 points and shooting 37 percent as a starter. Scott believes there is a simple explanation for the discrepancy. When Waiters was coming off the bench, Scott immediately put the ball in his hands and told him to be aggressive. When he’s in the starting lineup, that role still belongs to Kyrie Irving. “He probably gets into a better rhythm coming off the bench because I put the ball in his hands,” Scott said. “Off the bench, he comes out there and it’s like, ‘I’m going to give you the ball, this is what we’re going to run, put you in pick and rolls and be in attack mode.’ Whereas at the beginning of the game with Ky, I’m telling him to be in attack mode and with Dion it’s, ‘Hey, we’ll find you a way.’ Trying to create some things for him is a little bit different.” The chemistry between Waiters and Irving has been a work in progress. It has been fluent at times and clunky at others. The Cavs are at their best when the ball is in Irving’s hands, but that means it is out of Waiters’ for the first time in his life. “We talk to each other on the court almost every possession trying to figure out spacing, when it’s time for one another to take over,” Waiters said. “Just [try] to give him enough space to operate and do what he’s doing on the floor and vice versa for me and knowing where to be on the floor.” Scott thinks Waiters has adapted better in recent weeks to playing without the ball. He made his first five shots and six of his first seven in the big win Wednesday over the Charlotte Bobcats. He is attacking the basket and driving the lane more frequently, which is where he is at his best. “In the last two to four weeks he’s really starting to grow just from a maturity standpoint,” Scott said. “He’s really starting to understand what being a pro is all about. He’s really starting to put in the work before and after practice and it’s really starting to pay off. He’s playing with a lot more confidence right now. He understands what his role is, even as a starter.” The Cavs believe the formula for a championship team includes two players who can create and an All-Star caliber big man. Irving has already proven capable of filling one of those slots, and the team remains confident Waiters could evolve into the other playmaker.
Cavs rookie Dion Waiters starting to understand what being a pro means
Akron Beacon Journal | Feb 8