Dion Waiters found out about the NBA season getting suspended at the same time as everybody else watching the nationally televised game between the Nuggets and Mavericks on March 11. Waiters, who'd been signed by Los Angeles less than a week beforehand and hadn't even played a game with the Lakers yet, was watching the battle between Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic when the decision came down.
“People start sending stuff, it got crazy,” Waiters told Sports Illustrated. “At that time, [the Lakers] were still trying to get all the information. Everybody found out at the same time.”
Waiters remained in Los Angeles to work out after the suspension, though those activities were soon banned. Waiters, like the rest of his teammates, was then tested for the coronavirus in mid-March, a process he described as “terrible.”
“They stick a Q-tip into your nose, it touches the front of your brain,” Waiters describes. “You start coughing and everything, it was the worst.”
Waiters has since gone home to Miami to be with his family. He caught up with SI over the phone earlier this week to discuss how he’s filling his time during the suspension, making friends on Fortnite, and more.
Rohan Nadkarni: What have you been up to since the season got suspended?
Dion Waiters: It’s been cool, man. With the family, just chilling. Trying to find something to do every day with my kids. The best thing about it is just being here. I have an 8-month-old baby. Being able to see her, playing basketball with my son every day. That’s actually what I was doing before you called, we play basketball twice a day.
RN: What do you do when you’re not hanging with your kids?
DW: I pretty much just play the game, bro. You know me, Fortnite or Madden. As of late, I’ve been on [Instagram] Live—it’s the first time I’ve been on Live in like a year. I’m just tapping in with Philly, I’m having like a friendly competition. Some guys back home from Philly, that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing on Live the last three nights. It’s been crazy, been a lot of back and forth, talk, competition. Even with guys I came up with.
RN: So everyone is going on Instagram Live these days. What’s the most fun part about that for you?
DW: Most fun part for me is just the trash talking, bro. Trash talk. It’s fun, people chiming in with their opinions on different things. Who they liked who came up in the city when we was young. Summertime where guys played pickup, we got a thing in Philly called Summertime Rec. In that summertime you can’t duck no smoke. You can’t duck nobody in that basketball vibes. That’s really what we’ve been doing, trash talking. My Instagram been going off. Unreal, man. I had Lou Will[iams] on there the other night, a bunch of different people, Kyle Lowry. It’s been fun. And one thing you know about Philly, everybody is competitive, no matter what level you’re at.
RN: Do you play with strangers when you play Fortnite and stuff?
DW: Yeah, man. What’s so crazy, I met some of my young friends—I call them my little brothers—some of the young guys I met on the game I met in real life. It’s crazy that you meet from the game and bring them around. You build that relationship. I built a lot of relationships off the game and met these guys in person. And the love has just been genuine. I ain’t better than nobody.
RN: Do people freak out when they find out who you are and you play for the Lakers? Or do they mostly not care?
DW: You know, most of the time they probably think you’re lying, until you get up on the game and they hear you. It’s dope, man. It’s fun. Me being able to play with some of them, the guys who are really good, they can teach me. I’m a fan of the game. I’m a fan of building. I love all that.
RN: I have to ask because I feel like I’ve always been honest with you Dion, and you’ve always been honest with me. Do you think you’re too old to be on TikTok?
DW: Uh, you know what, I’m 28, I live life to the max. I get a chance to tap into a side that a lot of people may not think—I get a chance to tap into a side where people who may have a perception of me, it’s completely wrong. So people who don’t know me or don’t get a chance to talk to me, not just going off what they hear, I’m actually a good person. I’m a fun person to be around. I’ve made mistakes in my life before, but I’m not that person. At the end of the day, it’s not just me trying to prove I’m a perfect kid. I’ve made mistakes like everybody else, but I can show a different side of my personality you may not thought I had.
RN: Is there something—fun is not the right word. But something about being able to spend this time at home when you’re normally busy?
DW: It’s not fun because of the state of emergency that’s going on in the world. It’s not fun, but I’ll say it’s great being able to be around your family in tough times. Instead of me having to be in L.A. by myself and worrying about my kids and how they’re holding up, I can be here.
It was hard being in L.A. because I didn’t know what was going on. In times like this, you appreciate the things and people you have. Appreciate the little things, like going outside, or take your kids to the playground.
RN: When this all ends, whenever that is, what’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to doing on that first day?
DW: Just trying to hoop. Just vibe out and hoop. I’ve had damn near the whole season off. I’m trying to get back and hoop. I got something to prove at the end of the day. During this quarantine I’ve been dieting, getting my weight down, getting in shape. For me, it’s just playing basketball.