Cavaliers

Something is missing, and it isn’t just Dion Waiters

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Dion Waiters has gone missing. At least this is what the story has evolved into, grade school telephone style. The Cleveland Cavaliers are adamant that their second-year shooting guard is home sick, loading up with multiple illness-ridding prescriptions. The timing of Waiters’ absence—no tweets published, nary an Instagram upload—is a subject of scrutiny as it comes just hours after the Cavaliers held a players only meeting, one which got somewhat contentious, but did not approach anything in the way of physical confrontation. Waiters, as he has been prone to, is having a bit of an up-and-down season; his backcourt teammate, Kyrie Irving, has had much of the same. But it was Irving who appeared the very next day with a black eye and a mask while Waiters had fallen off of the grid.

The speculation swirled, fueled largely by Twitter and the Great Unknown, ultimately providing headlines like this. Despite the attempts of many to toss a wet blanket on this smoldering story, the correlation of The Meeting with The Disappearance was odd if not outright impossible to deny.

The fact that Cavaliers players confronted one another following a 29-point loss is a good thing. For Kyrie Irving to have his head coach excuse himself so that he could kick off an airing of grievances shows a much-needed quality that has been missing for the majority of the last two-plus seasons. It’s reasonable to assume that it was this—the meeting, the fallout—that Mike Brown had been referring to in the post-game media scrum where he appeared to be somewhat accepting of the fact that his team was just embarrassed by a team they had beaten just a week earlier.

“I saw some things that make me think that this team has some fight and some character,” said Brown following the loss. “I saw it tonight. I saw some stuff on the court, some stuff on the bench, listening to guys talk and how they feel. We like some of the things that were being said, things that were said on the bench, some of the things done on the bench by most of the guys.”

Irving managed to put up another 41 points as the Cavaliers topped the Washington Wizards for what seems like the millionth time in the last 10 years. Though it was not without friction (after all, it took an overtime period complete with ear lobe pulling and constant finagling of the straps which keep his mask affixed to his head), Irving managed to harness his days of old, putting this Cavaliers team on his shoulders when it mattered the most. Certainly, it wasn’t pretty—there were costly turnovers and untimely fouls—but it was a win that mattered very much to the players inside of the Cavaliers locker room. It speaks volumes that a team puts itself in must-win territory during the middle of November, but such was the case.

[Related: Is Dion Waiters primed to make the leap?]

But as this team sits at 4-7, representing the 10th seed in the East1 and waiting for their impending mid-week rematch with the Wizards, much of the discussion will revolve around their absentee shooting guard. There have been rumors that Waiters was about to be demoted from his starting role, a role that is very important to him. Had he been able to play on Friday, it is believed that CJ Miles, a player who is off to a solid start this season, would have had his name called among the starting five. Assuming that there is an illness, is it related to this potential switch? After all, it’s not like the Cavaliers had sputtered out of the gate solely due to their starting shooting guard—his numbers, to that point, were largely in line with his rookie season with improvement in his three-point shooting, as well as Mike Brown-friendly areas like rebounding and steals2.

Nevertheless, the team insists that there is nothing more to this story. They don’t appear to be upset that the story of the players only meeting has leaked out. They continue to provide information on Waiters’ standing, wasting no time in making the media aware that he would not be traveling with the team in their trip to Washington. Recall, right around this time last season, both Waiters and teammate Tyler Zeller (and then trainer Max Benton) were hospitalized following a team event; the team gave no indication of this until Byron Scott let it slip during his pre-game address. Changing up the starting lineup and rotation was something that Brown had put in place a week ago after it became very evident that Earl Clark was not going to cut it as the starting small forward; Andrew Bynum’s health also allowed for a bit of a change in the frontcourt. But the details remain largely unturned as to what, if anything, this all meant for the sensitive shooting guard. The team took Sunday off as they had just finished up a back-to-back slate. And let’s be honest, given all that transpired over the last week, some soul-searching down time might not have been the worst thing for them.

Until this whole situation unfolded, Waiters appeared to be one of the more improved players in the Cavaliers locker room when it came to the mental side of the game. He showed up to training camp in incredible shape, knew what was going to be asked of him, and was largely more affable than a season ago. Following the team’s Opening Night win over the Brooklyn Nets, he seemed just as excited to talk about Michael Carter-Williams’ stunning debut,  22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals—an NBA record for a player’s debut, harkening back to their alma mater. Following the game, Waiters picked up his infant son and waltzed off as if he had hit the game-winning shot despite having just 11 points in what was a rough shooting night. It was only a few days before The Meeting where Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal had glowing things to say about Waiters. “Something has just looked different about Waiters lately, it just looks like something is clicking with him,” writes Lloyd.

“It’s my attitude,” Waiters said. “A couple talks I had with my agent talking about some things just motivating me. I was letting the game get me so frustrated.”

Someone isn’t talking and the Social Media activity of the shooting guard, or lack thereof, is only the tip of the Wine and Gold iceberg. Perhaps the talk and it’s positive reinforcement was short-lived. Perhaps this is nothing at all. The team could certainly benefit from all of this drama passing over. Unfortunately, more often than not, at least in the vacuum of Cleveland sports, these sort of items tend to get worse before they get better. Until then, there’s an APB on No. 3. The merit of such should be determined in the coming days.

(Image: Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE)

Related articles across the web

  1. Yes, tenth. Everyone in the East outside of Indiana is struggling out of the gate. Philadelphia is in first place in the Atlantic division with a 5-6 record. Only four teams in the East have a winning record. []
  2. Waiters’ defensive rebounding rate is up to 12 percent from just 8.8 a year ago; his defensive rating has drastically improved, going from 111 last season to 102 thus far []

  • Vindictive_Pat

    This team needs a healthy (mentally and physically) Dion Waiters. I like Dellavedova as 3rd PG and towel-waver, but I do not like him getting big minutes from night to night in place of Waiters (although I certainly feel better about having Delly in over Karasev at this point… that guy looks completely lost on offense and doesn’t give half the effort on defense).

    Whither Anthony Bennett? Whither Dion Waiters.

  • Doug Turrington

    For whatever it’s worth I know Dion was active on Vine the last couple days.

  • mgbode

    10th? we’re tied for 8th. hard to take any tiebreakers seriously this time of year. wait, it’s hard to take actual seeding position seriously either 🙂

  • Vine is still a thing?

  • Tiebreaker is such a difinitive word. Tough to cast aside, unless you’re the Browns.

  • mgbode

    strangely enough, the Browns are also tied for 8th (though actual 12th after tiebreakers).

    tiebreak rules there also incredibly flawed at this point because Pitt beats us on it for being 1-0 vs. Balt (divisional tiebreakers factor in before outside division). we’ll settle that one on Sunday.

  • I pondered using that title as the title, but decided against it.

  • Natedawg86

    NBA playoff talk in Nov in a league where 50% of the teams make it…sheesh

  • cmm13

    Amen to that.

    So Andrew Wiggins huh……yeah, looks good to me. Anyone else coming out next year?

  • Harv 21

    keep thinking that coach and teammates went at Dion’s effort at following the new program, Dion claimed he was playing ill and the team said, “really? So go see the doc and stay away a few days.”

    This whole thing is unsurprising. Dion has a history of butting heads with coaches; he attended 4 different high schools and almost left Syracuse after clashing with Boeheim. To quote one of his high school coaches, ” “A lot had to do with his trust issues. But he had a million-dollar smile. What he would do is if a teacher or someone confronted him, he’d more or less shut down and become more reclusive.” http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2012/06/cleveland_cavaliers_impressed.html

    Mike Brown has an agenda to break down the bad habits and rebuild good ones. Dion has authority issues. All the players seem to view Mike as a good guy – Bynum signed on here after their probs. This coach will get him to buy in. But these upcoming games are absolutely not “must win” anything. It’s not instant oatmeal, pour on Mike Brown and stir. This is going to have to simmer for a while. If Dion wants to immediately challenge the agenda Mike’s gonna pull out the big hammer, playing time.

  • mgbode

    what noone knows:

    Mike Brown sent Dion to a dark room adam-james-style. Once there, he was strapped down to a chair unable to move. The room was completely dark until a small spotlight behind a shadowy figure holding a basketball is lit directly in front of Waiters. This figure does not say a word, but Dion knows what he is saying: I will break you.

    http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/000/536/709/104544428_display_image.jpg?1291171250

  • wildrover4

    All of this is pure speculation anyway, but I think it is a mistake to put this solely on Dion. Assuming that Dion had issues with Kyrie, it’s not like Dion was the only player that had issues with Kyrie’s hero ball this season. Having watched the games this season, I don’t know how you take issue with Dion’s effort. He has clearly been our best back court defender (Bradley Beal went off for 28 without Dion on him Saturday). Notwithstanding the absence of Dion and his supposed lackadaisical effort on Friday, we managed to lose to the Bobcats at home. People who think Dion is the problem on this team are in for a rude awakening if we get rid of him.

  • Harv 21

    No one put anything solely on Dion, No one said he has issues with Kyrie. But multiple reports from relatively reliable guys like Windhorst is that Dion is an issue. I have seen Dion give some effort on defense but also dog it, like against Minnesota, or just passively float.

    I’m a big Dion fan, just think he’s still immature. No one said anything about a trade. As I said above, I think his maturation is going to take some time, and this assertion of authority by the coach is part of the process.

  • typo

    Was there any explanation as to why kyrie was wearing a mask?

  • Sustained a broken nose in last week’s bloodbath in Minnesota. Took an elbow from Corey Brewer.

  • harvey

    So why are people reporting that his face injury is a result of being punched by Dion? I was at the game. He was on the floor for over a minute, left the game, went back to the locker room. Seems weird and very sloppy that a rumor like this has legs when there is verifiable evidence that his face was busted up by Cory Brewer.

  • typo

    Thanks scott.

  • Crowsfoot

    This team is in big trouble. Just like last year, Kyrie has to work to the point of getting injured just to keep us in games. Andy is one of a few NBA players whose body isn’t any different from year to year. Maybe his marriage softened him, but it looks like he’s past his peak, out of shape, and over-matched. Tristan is average, predictable, and too mechanical – even though he works hard and gets his hollow double-doubles. Dion is too inconsistent. Jarrett is serviceable, but guns it too much and doesn’t run plays. There is still no dependable scorer off of the bench. Sergey is a soft, skinny project. Anthony is lost bust out there ( At that position, Cody Z. should’ve been the pick ). Matt is a floor general and true leader, but doesn’t have the offensive game to merit much playing time. C.J. and Earl are hot and cold. Andrew seems to be playing on borrowed time until something flares up. Tyler looks stiff and lumbering. Alonzo plays great defense, scores a little, but is nothing more than a 7th or 8th man. Coach Brown has a mess on his hands but doesn’t help matters with his game plans.

    All in all, last year’s team could beat this one…but some fans are thinking playoffs ?

  • BenRM

    because it’s a better story.

  • BenRM

    Obvious troll post is obvious, but I’ll take the bait.

    You’re kidding yourself if you think last year’s team would beat this one (especially after Andy went down).

    1st – last year’s team was at the bottom of the league in defense. This year, the Cavs are at the top. That point alone probably means this year’s team wins.

    2nd – Last year’s team was better offensively, but let’s not pretend it was by much. They were still in the bottom third of the league. They’re at the bottom of the league this year as well.

    3rd – For direct comparison’s sake, Tristan is obviously better this year than he was last year. Also, Andy is actually able to play this year, which is different from last year 😉

    4th – Luke Walton, Boobie, and Omri Casspi or Bynum, Clark, and Jack. Seriously. seriously.

  • statforthat

    I don’t know what happened in that locker room, but I do know that this young backcourt won’t last long…they never do. Theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2012/11/nba-history-says-irving-waiters-wont.html

  • woofersus

    Where did you read that? Everybody who watched the game saw the elbow hit him in the face in slow motion several times. The bruising was already starting by the end of the game.