Pregame Dribbles: Former Cav Waiters Going Through Rough Stretch
CLEVELAND -- Some pregame dribbles as the Cavaliers prepare to host the Miami Heat (6 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).
1. Remember when Dion Waiters said he and Kyrie Irving were the best young backcourt in the league? That was back in 2014, when Waiters and Irving were with the Cavaliers and LeBron James had just returned to the franchise.
2. Waiters was responding to comments from John Wall of Washington. Wall had claimed he and Bradley Beal were the league's best young guards. "That's nonsense," Waiters said at the time.
3. Waiters was traded several months later (to Oklahoma City). Irving demanded a trade of his own less than three years after that.
4. Irving is still a great individual player, but there are questions about his impact on team chemistry. Beal is a pro through and through and a borderline All-Star, but is stuck in a losing situation with the Wizards. Wall has been sidelined with a major Achilles injury and may miss the entire season. But none have had as difficult a time as Waiters lately.
5. Waiters, 27, signed with the Heat as a free agent in 2016. He has undoubtedly had several good moments in Miami. This season has not been among them.
6. First, he was suspended by the Heat for "conduct detrimental to the team." That was supposedly the result of Waiters complaining about his role. Team president Pat Riley has no patience for drama, so pouting doesn't get rewarded with the Heat. While the suspension was only supposed to be for one game, Waiters didn't suit up for the entire first couple of weeks.
7. Last week, Waiters suffered a panic attack after eating a THC-infused edible on the team flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. The Heat suspended him for 10 games. Those close to the team wonder if he will ever play another game for the organization.
8. We won't spend much more time on this, but the point is, things can change quickly in the NBA. I interviewed Waiters several times when he was with the Cavs and he was always someone who was good to talk to. He never let the money or fame get to his head, was always cordial and straightforward. But he has been his own worst enemy since being traded by the Cavs and it's too bad.
9. For more on the Waiters situation and potential ramifications from the latest suspension, check out this piece from Sports Illustrated legal writer Michael McCann: What's next for Waiters after gummy incident?
10. As for the actual game, the Heat (7-3) have been just fine minus Waiters, even flourishing. The trade for Jimmy Butler has worked out very well early. I'm not sure who is going to try to defend him for the Cavs. My guess is it will have to be Cedi Osman to start.
11. Cavs coach John Beilein said Matthew Dellavedova (right calf soreness) and Kevin Porter Jr. (hip contusion) are likely a go. He added it depends on how they feel after pregame warmups.
12. Also, I reported yesterday, rookie swingman Dylan Windler (stress reaction) is expected to miss several more weeks. Read that story here.
13. The Heat will be without Justise Winslow (concussion) and Derrick Jones Jr. (hip). Rookie standout Tyler Herro (ankle) said he intends to play, though coach Erik Spoelstra wasn't positive. Veteran guard Goran Dragic (sick) will play.
14. Overall, this is another tall task for the Cavs (4-6) after an impressive road swing in which they beat Washington and New York, and barely lost to Philadelphia. The loss to the 76ers may have been the best the Cavs have played all season. For more on that game, check out my latest dribbles: Again, Cavaliers prove to be more than most expected.
15. Power forward Bam Adebayo has been playing very well for the Heat, as has guard Kendrick Nunn, who started as a long shot to make the team and has turned into one of the league's biggest surprises. Translation: The Cavs will have their hands full.
16. Don't forget the early start time. As I'm sure most of you know, the Browns will be kicking off against their biggest rival just a few blocks away. The start of the football game (8:20 p.m.) should coincide with the end of the Cavs game.