Humble & Hungry: Dime’s 2012 Rookie Journal With Dion Waiters, Vol. 3

After an outstanding sophomore season at Syracuse that had many analysts talking about him as one of the best guards in the country, Dion Waiters decided the time was right to test his talents and make the jump to the NBA. The Philly native was a beast as a sixth man, averaging 12.6 points on nearly 48 percent shooting to help lead the Orange to the Elite 8 last season, and after his stock steadily rose during the draft process, Cleveland took him higher than anyone expected. He kept a diary with us throughout the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, and plans to check in with us often throughout this upcoming season to talk about life as a rookie, the NBA grind, and his favorite things to do off the court…

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I’ve been out with an ankle injury, but I’ll be back tonight against Toronto. I originally twisted it. I went up in the air and came down and it just twisted. The rehab, I’ve just been trying to get up and down on it, cutting, things like that, just trying to stay in and keep my conditioning up, which I did a pretty good job of doing.

The rehab here is definitely more hands on than anything I’ve had anywhere else. The team around us and the Cavs offer great support: the people around you that have their own families that are there with you until 7 or 8 at night and still working. Going to the gym two times a day putting in work, you can’t ask for more than that.

I’m not really in the trainer’s room unless I’m hurt. I try to stay out of there as much as I can. I don’t want to make that a habit of going in there. You don’t go in there unless it’s something serious. But I go in there because of this injury, get treatment, take care of my body. That’s the most important thing to do: take care of your body and get rest. That’s what I’ve learned.

So far, I’ve just been taking what the defense gives me, but before I got hurt, I found myself taking too many threes. I know I can go by a defender but I’d settle for a jump shot when I didn’t have to. After getting hurt, I’ve watched a lot of film, watched myself and seen a lot of the opportunities that I had where I settled for a jump shot. But now, I won’t be taking as many jumpers as I was. I’ll be attacking more and trying to put the pressure on the defense and hopefully get fouled.

That’s the main thing – keep attacking, play my game and do what I do best, and get my teammates involved, too. A lot of people ain’t know I could pass the ball the way I’ve been passing. I’m just really trying to work on my game and take it to the next level.

Once a team finds out what you’re doing and how good you’re playing, then they see that and they’ll try to play you a different way. They just come with it. You just gotta continue to do what you do best, play your game. There’s going to be adjustments. That’s why the NBA is the NBA. There are a lot of smart coaches gameplanning and things like that, but at the end of the day, you gotta go out there and execute.

I haven’t really had any plays that have stuck out so far. The dunk against Portland was probably one of my best dunks of the year. But I could’ve been doing that. It’s just certain situations. I make the game harder on myself. That’s the main thing, me just making it harder on myself. I think that makes me a better player because when I sit there and I watch film, I can see those mistakes I made and different opportunities I had to do things differently. That’s the biggest thing, just learning and growing as a person on and off the court, being able to see those mistakes and owning up to it.

I’m playing so many different positions that it’s hard to name my toughest matchup. There’s not one steady guy. The fastest guy I’ve guarded is definitely Monta Ellis. He makes some of the craziest shots. I think the toughest guy I’ve had to guard on the ball where he could basically get anywhere he wanted on the court was Chris Paul. D-Wade too. He’s versatile, strong, and can get you in the post.

I’ve had a lot of those “Welcome to the NBA” moments, though. I can’t talk about not getting calls but you can get smacked and things like that. This is the NBA. You gonna earn everybody’s respect and the referee’s respect. At the end of the day, you gotta keep playing and can’t let it affect you.

With the season going on, it’s love with the fans now. Everybody shows love. I’m more appreciated. From the draft and the summer league, I didn’t really do nothing, but once the season came, I was really able to take off. I think I just earned a lot of people’s respect. Me, I’ve always had that confidence. I just had to show everybody else why the Cavs drafted me. You’ll be on Twitter, and seeing people saying they need you back, you take appreciation from that. You feel appreciated. That’s the cool thing about the whole situation. I just can’t wait to get back out there, though.

I’m waiting for the new Kobes. I’m patiently waiting for them. I haven’t had a pair of sneakers to wear that I’ve felt really, really comfortable in outside of the Kobes. I’m waiting patiently for them. I’ve been playing in his ones from last year, and I tried a lot of different sneakers out, but I think I’m going to stay with the Kobes.

Off the court, I’m listening to Meek Mill‘s album right now. He just came out with one. That’s what I listen to every day before a game. That’s really one of my closest friends. He made it and that gave me more motivation to go even harder to put on for my city also. I listen to Meek Mill, of course, but also Rick Ross, Jadakiss and Jay-Z. Jay-Z is my favorite rapper of all time. I listen to a little bit of Drake, T.I. I listen to a lot of music, a lot of different music. In the locker room, everybody has their own headphones and music is playing. Everybody is doing their own thing.

With my Eagles, oh man, it’s a rebuilding year. If I was the Eagles, I’d keep Michael Vick. He’s still got a lot left in his tank. What we need to do is get an offensive line to protect him. That’s pretty much what we need is an offensive line. A lot of guys are injured with concussions and things like that, and I think the referees need to do a better job of not letting the quarterback take all the hits. It’s a rebuilding year for us. If we get a chance to come back next year with more focus and better protection, we’ll be good. But I like Nick Foles too. Nick Foles is a young, good quarterback but I don’t think he’s really ready for that Eagles atmosphere, that Philadelphia atmosphere because once that pressure’s all on him, he’s gotta be able to take it, and I think he can do that if he keeps progressing each week and gets better. The football is in his hands, so he has a lot of opportunity.

The Browns are doing good. They had won three in a row, but weren’t able to get that fourth straight win. I support them too. It’s a Cleveland thing. Anywhere I’m at, Cleveland or Philly, I gotta support the sports because they support us and we gotta support them. The football team comes to our games, and I’m really looking forward to getting out to a game. I don’t know if that’s going to happen this year, but I’m supporting both teams. I’m an Eagles fan, a die-hard, and I wish the best for Cleveland.

Dion will be checking back in with us throughout the season with everything he’s going through as an NBA rookie so stick with us…

Follow Dion on Twitter at @dionwaiters3.

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