Dion Waiters Says Spotting Up, Playing Ancillary Role Is “Not My Game”

This season is about sacrifices for the Cleveland Cavaliers as much as anything else, and LeBron James says he “won’t allow” selfishness to keep them from being made. And if Dion Waiters’ words recent words are an indication of his overall mindset, it might already be time for James to wield that authority.

Asked before Cleveland’s dispiriting 101-82 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last night if he’s focusing on catch-and-shoot situations more now than in the past as a result of James and Kevin Love coming aboard, the ever-confident Waiters demurred.

Via Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beachon Journal:

11. It has been made clear to me in recent days by Cavs deep thinkers they’d like Waiters to really concentrate on two areas: defending like crazy and shooting catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Waiters’ catch-and-shoot numbers last season were much better than I would’ve predicted…

13. So when Waiters stayed behind after the team’s morning shootaround Tuesday and worked out for another 40 minutes, after the bus and rest of the players were long gone, it wasn’t surprising to watch him working primarily on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Yet when I asked him about focusing on that this season, he dismissed it.

14. “That’s not my game,” he said. “I can do it, but you know what I’m effective at: pick-and-roll and things like that.”

That doesn’t sound like a guy willing to make concessions for good of the team.

Waiters said all the right things this summer about making adjustments to his game after James announced his return to Cleveland, including that he was watching film of Dwyane Wade to glean understanding of the former Finals MVP’s transition to successful sidekick.

We’ve always been dubious about Waiters’ fit on this Cavaliers squad, though, and his stubborn comments about needing the ball lends credence to that skepticism. But the concerns that so many have about the third-year guard’s basketball id are similar to those that faced Wade in 2010-2011, and with two notable differences in Waiters’ favor: The Syracuse product is a comfortable three-point shooter; and his unestablished standing in the league should make it easier for him to take a backseat.

But Waiters hasn’t accounted for either reality thus far. His ball-stopping, dribble-happy, long-two ways have persisted in the season’s early going, no doubt contributing to James’ new passive aggressive approach to teaching and leadership. Waiters has been assisted on just four of his 10 baskets through the Cavs’ first three games, attempting 4.5 pull-up shots compared to 3.0 catch-and-shoot attempts per contest.

That’s not what Cleveland needs from him, and is a slap in the face to basketball ideologies of James and David Blatt. Some of LeBron’s critique below applies to Kyrie Irving, too, but Waiters is the biggest culprit of missteps the four-time MVP describes:

“It’s going to be a long process, man. There’s been a lot of losing basketball around here for a few years. … But there’s a lot of bad habits, a lot of bad habits have been built up over the last couple of years, and when you play that style of basketball it takes a lot to get it up out of you. But I’m here to help, and that’s what it’s about.”

This is as big a problem for Waiters as it is the Cavs. Blatt has opted for backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova over Waiters in crunch-time so far this season, a choice that further limits Cleveland’s defense but ensures better offensive decision-making. If Waiters would buy-in to his new reality, there’s no justifiable reason to play a guy like Dellavedova over him – nor why he shouldn’t thrive occupying that role altogether.

But it starts with attitude, and these latest comments support a notion seen by the naked eye that he doesn’t have it yet. That’s no reason for panic – these things take time. But given Waiters’ history, one wonders if he’ll ever grasp the necessary mentality at all.

*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats.

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