Dion Waiters shows he’s got some work to do after Summer League debut

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LAS VEGAS — The image you should take away of Cleveland’s Dion Waiters from his Summer League debut is him standing out by the arc, waiving his arm calling for the ball.

Or maybe it is the image of him getting the inbound pass with his team down one and 3.9 seconds left in the game, getting trapped by a double team and calling a time out — but the Cavs were out of timeouts, so it was a technical and the Bobcats ball. He pulled a Chris Webber. (Waiters said he didn’t know and the coach admitted he did not remind players they were out of timeouts when setting up the inbounds play.)

Neither of those are the images Waiters wants you to have of him when games start to actually matter come the fall. Becoming an NBA player is a process and Waiters has taken only one small step on that road.

But it was a stumbling step for a guy who rocketed up draft boards all the way to No. 4 (raising some eyebrows around the league). Waiters seemed to spend a lot of his first game either calling for the ball or shooting it when he got it. He was taking jumpers and not getting in the paint — he opened the game hitting a contested three and after that seemed to settle more than he should have. The result was 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

“I wasn’t following through, I was leaning back, I wasn’t on balance,” Waiters said of his shooting on the night. “I hurt myself tonight with my jump shot….

“I stopped attacking. I should have kept attacking but I wasn’t really getting no calls going to the hole. I just got to keep attacking, in the league rookies don’t get a lot of calls anyway.”

Waiters had a lot thrown on his shoulders in his opener — Kyrie Irving was supposed to be the guy with the ball in his hands and Waiters was supposed to play off him. But after Irving broke his hand and was out for Summer League, the Cavaliers decided to see what Waiters would do with the ball in his hands. Waiters had the green light all night, like he did back at Syracuse.

It was not all bad, it was mixed. He did attack at times and drew some fouls. He had four assists and should have had more as he did a good job moving the ball but none of the Cavaliers were hitting their looks.

On defense, there were moments Waiters looked like a rookie at times. He lost his man on defense when ball watching more than once.

It wasn’t an impressive debut. But Summer League is about learning and gaining experience, what matters is not this game but how he applies what he learned in this game to the next one. And the next one.

“It was a learning experience,” Waiters said. “It was good to get out there for the first time in a long time. I just want to come back better.”

He’s got the right attitude. We’ll see if he can live up to the hype.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.