Dion Waiters says he was held back with Cavaliers


After being traded from the Cavaliers to the Thunder, Dion Waiters selected jersey No. 23 – which some saw as a possible message to LeBron James.

Waiters in a Q&A with the media, as transcribed by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

Why you wearing 23?

They didn’t have any numbers. I wanted 3, I wanted 1. They didn’t have that. So I said, OK, I’m gonna take 13 because I wanted 1, they didn’t have 1. Then 13, they didn’t want me to wear 13. 23, I didn’t want to wear 23. My favorite number is 3. They just gave me 23.

You remember who wore 13?

Yeah, James (Harden). So they didn’t want me to wear 13. Guess they wanted me to have my own identity. We gonna make 23 look good though.

In Cleveland and at Syracuse, Waiters wore No. 3, which Perry Jones has in Oklahoma City. The franchise also retired No. 1 for former Seattle SuperSonic Gus Williams.

Harden’s No. 13 obviously isn’t retired, but you can see why the Thunder wouldn’t want Waiters to wear it. You can see why they wouldn’t want any reminders of Harden.

Trading Harden to the Rockets rather than offering him a max contract extension is Sam Presti’s biggest mistake. Harden has turned into an MVP candidate in Houston, and “What if?” questions plague Oklahoma City.

Waiters stylistically follows Harden as the Thunder’s bench scorer, but Waiters won’t come close to matching Harden’s production.

Along those lines, Waiters also spoke about more substantive issues. Via Slater:

Have they seen you, really get to see you do what you could do?

Nah, I’ve always been like held back a little bit from really reaching and showing what I can do. I think last year I got a chance to do that when guys went down and I was able to show what I can do in that time.

Here’s the problem with Waiters: His natural style works best as the centerpiece of an offense, but he’s nowhere near good enough to be a centerpiece of an offense.

Yes, Waiters averaged 21.2 points, shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 35.2 percent on 3-pointers, and 4.2 assists per game while starting Cleveland’s final 15 games last season. And yes, the Cavaliers went a pretty-good-for-them 7-8 while outscoring opponents by 30 points.

But the more you watch Waiters, those numbers seem unsustainable over a larger sample. He obviously plays better when his team’s strategy is geared toward him, but that’s true of everyone in the league. Few players justify that treatment, though, and Waiters isn’t one of them.

It’s hard to see Waiters fitting well with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup. For it to happen, the Thunder would absolutely need to hold back Waiters.

He works better off the bench, where he’ll have more control of the offense. Andre Roberson – a low-usage, defense-first wing – fits better as a starter.

Still, even if playing mostly with a reserve unit, Waiters will be playing with other capable scorers like Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow. The sooner Waiters realizes he should hold back some of his natural game, the better off he and the Thunder will be.

Report: Raptors’ Delon Wright out a month

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Raptors guard Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder, but at least he won’t need surgery.

Raptors media relations:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Raptors (11-5), off to a surprisingly strong start, are second in the Eastern Conference. They’ve bought themselves margin for error. All in all, a month-long absence for Wright isn’t so bad.

Wright had been a key part of an excellent all-bench unit that included Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Jakob Poeltl. Two-way player Lorenzo Brown has assumed Wright’s role, and Norman Powell – returning from his own injury – will provide a boost. Toronto can also stagger Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan more.

The chemistry of the bench mob was something to behold, but the Raptors should withstand this.

Report: Clippers PG Patrick Beverley out rest of season

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Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery – never a great sign.

The prognosis is about as bad as could be expected.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This injury isn’t just a setback for this season. It could derail the Clippers’ long-term plan.

They’ve already lost nine straight, and Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic are injured. If they fall further out of playoff position, they could become sellers before the trade deadline, especially with DeAndre Jordan ($24,119,025 player option for next season) and Lou Williams ($7 million salary on expiring contract).

Health was always the major question with this team, and it won’t soften as Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari age through lucrative contracts.

The final year of Beverley’s contract is guaranteed for just $5,027,028 next season, and the 29-year-old will spend most of the summer recovering from this injury. That salary is probably low enough that the Clippers will keep him without hesitation.

Until then, down a couple point guards, the Clippers have no choice but to continue leaning more on Austin Rivers. That also means greater roles for second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s just too many players facing outsized responsibility.

The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Jazz and any other team competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference ought to feel better about their chances. They’re still competing with each other, and it’s doubtful all three make it. But Beverley’s injury helps clear the way.

The Clippers, who didn’t want to take a major step back after Chris Paul‘s departure, must confront an even more uneasy reality.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Suns Eric Bledsoe revenge game

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Giannis Antetokounmpoone of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.

Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.

Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.

“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”

The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.

I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.

Report: Mexico City could host NBA’s 31st minor-league team

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his league would look into placing a franchise in Mexico City.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s minor-league has affiliates for 26 of 30 NBA teams and counting. The league also has youth academies in China, India, Australia and Senegal – and also counting.

Jonathan Givony of  ESPN:

The NBA will announce a new basketball development and training academy in Mexico City during the Global Games December 7th and 9th, in conjunction with CONADE (Mexico’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport) and the Mexican Basketball Federation, sources told ESPN.

Mexico City could emerge as the 31st G League franchise, where prospects from the seven academies graduate up to, according to sources.

A minor-league team in Mexico City could be a nice testing ground for an NBA franchise. An unaffiliated minor-league team is also an interesting wrinkle, especially how it’d be stocked.

Ultimately, experimentation is a purpose of the NBA’s minor league. This would be running multiple test cases at once.