The Cavaliers were a disaster last season, both on and off the floor. And most of the blame for those problems fell squarely on the shoulders of Dion Waiters.
Waiters, playing in only his second NBA season, was said to have caused friction in the locker room with Kyrie Irving over the distribution of shots, which didn’t help matters in what was already a toxic environment that was allowed to spin out of control under a since-fired head coach and general manager.
All those problems were washed away in an instant this offseason, however, once LeBron James signed on to return to play in Cleveland. And, the team became immediate title contenders once it completed the trade for Kevin Love to play alongside him.
But James knows plenty about the dynamic in Cleveland last season, and is working with Waiters early on to try and make sure he’s properly focused.
James watched from afar last season as the Cavs’ locker room — and season — unraveled amongst players sniping and poor performances on the court. Teammates and even rival executives from other teams quietly grumbled about Waiters (and to a lesser extent Kyrie Irving) for their pouting and childish behavior. Most of the blame, however, was directed toward Waiters. James noticed.
“Every team, there’s a guy they want to kind of place the blame on. It would be Dion on our team,” James said. “I told him, ‘You can’t get involved in that or what people say about you. It’s not what people think of you, it’s what you think of yourself.’ ” …
“I’m saying stuff that’s already been said about Dion and I know that,” James said. “For me as the leader of the team, he has to understand not to worry what everyone is saying about him. It’s about us. It’s not about what everyone else thinks.”
Waiters called John Wall’s claim that the Wizards have the best backcourt “nonsense,”and did so during the same conversation with reporters where he said he’d welcome LeBron’s mentorship.
James is merely getting out in front of this, and taking on the leadership role that immediately became his the moment he signed. Just know that there’s plenty that goes into having a team that’s capable of winning a championship, and locker room chemistry plays a huge part. If Cleveland does eventually win a title, it will be due to LeBron’s role off the court almost as much as it will be because of his game night contributions.