Dion Waiters denies locker room incident, returns to Cavaliers following absence
Something seems rotten in the state of Ohio, but don't expect Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters to reveal any of the specifics.
Following a weekend in which he disappeared for multiple days as rumors of a locker room confrontation swirled, Waiters told reporters on Monday that he was simply ill and that everything was hunky-dory in Cleveland.
The Plain-Dealer reports the circumstantial evidence that fueled the rumors of an altercation and Waiters' denial of any incident.
The rumors surfaced last weekend after Kyrie Irving showed up for Friday's home game against Charlotte with a black eye and broken nose, while Waiters, reportedly close to losing his starting position, missed games on Friday and Saturday because of illness, according to the team's injury report.
"We men,'' he said in his first comments to reporters since before the Minnesota game. "Nobody got into no altercations or anything like that. We got everything off our chests that we needed to. That's that. All the other rumors, man, are rumors. Don't believe it. It's not true. We talked. Everybody talked. Nobody put their hands on nobody.
The News-Herald reports more from Waiters with evident skepticism.
He dropped in a well-executed sniffle for effect. Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters insists he was “sick” over the weekend, which would dispute wide-spread rumors that he was suspended.
Waiters said guard Kyrie Irving called the players-only meeting, and things got a bit testy.
“I think it was productive,” he said. “I think it helped. I think we needed it as far as a team and all the built-up frustration, especially when you want to win and you want to win now. So I think that helped us.”
“That’s some people’s job just to think stuff that happened that didn’t. I knew what happened. I knew what took place,” he said. “I just got sick at that time. Of course everybody’s going to think otherwise. But everybody on the team and I knew what really happened, so I’m good.”
Waiters told the Beacon Journal last week that he had a long talk with his agent, Rob Pelinka, that helped clear his head. Waiters was frustrated over losing so many games and with his lack of touches offensively, but Pelinka helped him to clear his head.
The Cavaliers' official version of events came by press release on Friday: the team announced that Irving had suffered a "minimally displaced right nasal fracture" during a Wednesday game against the Timberwolves while Waiters was merely listed as "sick."
Cleveland dropped that Wednesday game to Minnesota 124-95, marking a fourth loss in five games. Waiters took only six shots in that game, his second-lowest total of the season, and he played just 22 minutes. On the season, Waiters is averaging 13.3 points, 3.1. rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 41.4 percent from the field. Although Waiters said that he's now back with the team, coach Mike Brown reportedly would not commit to starting the 2012 lottery pick on Wednesday.
After meeting with a doctor and his agent, Waiters' next date should be with the Cavaliers' video coordinator and number crunchers. Those conversations could tell him a lot: namely, that his usage rate is the second-highest on the team behind Irving and his defensive rating of 104.2 is the second-worst on the Cavaliers. It was the same story last season: Waiters was No. 2 in usage rate among Cavaliers who played at least 40 games and his 109.6 defensive rating was second-worst on the team.
The very last people who should be raising their voices (or fists) during team meetings are unproven chuckers who don't take care of business at the other end. That description fits Waiters, who has plenty of potential, to a T right now.
Yes, the Cavaliers can surely do more to feature Waiters on offense, and everything has been lacking on that side with Irving off to an uncharacteristically slow start. Yes, Irving has room to grow defensively to get to the point where he's a leader by example on that end. But this is a classic "ask not what your team can do for you, ask what you can do for your team" situation for Waiters. Cleveland has a playoff mandate and Brown is always going to view defense as the way to achieve that goal. If Waiters doesn't feel like things are rolling smoothly, or going his way, he can show his eagerness to be part of the solution by buckling down when the opposing team has the ball.