The great thing about professional sports at the highest level in this country is that people will pay you outrageous sums of money to play a game for a living. One of the bummers is that you seldom have a chance to play in front of your hometown friends and family, unless you’re drafted by your hometown franchise. Dion Waiters’ hometown is Philadelphia, and on Monday night he had the rare opportunity to start for the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of his family and friends in Philadelphia against the 76ers.
Moments before tipoff, Dion Waiters told NewsOK‘s Anthony Slater, Cavs director of player administration Raja Bell (yes, that Raja Bell) came to Waiters and told him that he’d been traded and wouldn’t be playing basketball that night. Waiters would soon learn that his future destination would be the Oklahoma City Thunder.1
Anyway, Waiters noted that upon hearing that the Cavs had traded him he was “a little bitter” in the moment. (He would likely still be bitter had he been traded to the Sacramento Kings.) One has to sympathize with him a little. On top of the absurd experience that being traded must be—where a franchise basically sells you to another franchise so that you have to work for a new team without any say in the matter—Waiters was about to play in front of his friends and family and had that opportunity taken from him at the penultimate moment. He was in the process of walking out to the floor to play when Bell informed him that he had not only been exchanged like a good or service for cash, but that he was not allowed to play basketball on that very night.
Waiters had some other fascinating things to say in the interview as well. For instance, Oklahoma City actually forbade him from wearing number 13 because that was James Harden’s old number, the former Thunder shooting guard that the team since traded to the Houston Rockets—several years ago. He mentioned that LeBron taught him about being a professional. Probably the most shocking thing said was his response to what he “brought” to the Thunder.
Everyone know I can score the ball. But my defense. But really just buckling down, playing hard. That’s the most important thing, the defensive end. Offense gonna take care of itself. I really just gotta go out there, play my game and have fun.
A lot of Cavs fans just spit out their morning coffee.
While Waiters played better defense of late, it was at best sporadic and often reluctant. As recently as last week, Waiters would lose defenders whilst watching the ball, forfeiting an easy layup. But Waiters didn’t bite on the bait dangled in front of him to dismiss Cleveland and the Cavaliers organization: “Kevin said he wanted to make you and the Thunder wanted to make you feel appreciated here and that wasn’t the case where you were at.”
I won’t say that. I won’t say I wasn’t appreciated. But it is what it is. I don’t know what you want to call it, but I felt at home. Three years and I enjoyed every last minute there.
Thanks, Dion. I know he was no one’s favorite Cav, and he could sure make infuriating decisions at times. But somehow he endeared himself to me. He served a valuable basketball purpose, and it will never be his fault that the Cavs were awful, had two different coaches in his first two seasons, and that he was basically drafted to be a redundant player alongside Kyrie Irving. I wish Dion luck in Oklahoma City. You’ll always be our knucklehead in our hearts.
- Quick aside: NewsOK‘s blog for their local NBA team is named Thunder Rumblings, which is both a spectacular and very silly name. [↩]