UPDATE: Waiters called this report — one which he was directly quoted in — a “damn lie.”
Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James and Kevin Love joined the team this summer. Not only is the club off to a 1-3 start to the season, but they’re already dealing with reports of locker room discontent that the players were forced to deny just as soon as they got the chance.
The team has also undergone a change to its starting lineup.
Dion Waiters started the first three games of the season, but given the way the losses have piled up, head coach David Blatt felt that a change was necessary, and swapped in Shawn Marion instead.
Evidently, the effect on Waiters was him rededicating himself to his religious beliefs.
From Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
Prior to the Cavaliers getting set to take on the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, one of their players was missing from the pregame opening events.
Dion Waiters was nowhere to be found when the national anthem was being sung. He was absent when the starting lineups were introduced. …
Waiters informed Northeast Ohio Media Group that he is a Muslim and that he plans to excuse himself prior to the national anthem from here on out.
It’s an interesting coincidence that this gesture from Waiters coincided with him being removed from the starting lineup.
No matter where you stand on religion, there’s no disputing the fact that Waiters going down this road draws unnecessary attention to a team that has more than enough of it to deal with in the early stages of the season. Waiters is a nice young player to be sure, but if he becomes more trouble than he’s worth, a trade out of town in exchange for a more stable veteran presence might make some sense — especially while LeBron is there, and championships are the goal for every season that’s the case.
Waiters did stand with his team during the anthem before Friday’s win over the Nuggets, so perhaps James or one of the other leaders on the team explained how this could potentially become a needless distraction.
LOS ANGELES — Paul George has given us the quote of the day.
For some quick context, last season Paul George played with Markieff Morris in Oklahoma City. This season, George’s Clippers team traded for the other Morris twin, Marcus Morris, at the deadline. When asked about them, George admitted to mixing them up — and then had a classic description of twins.
“It was weird at first, ‘cuz I would call [Marcus] ‘Keiff.’ It actually took a good week. It’s crazy. ‘What’s up Marcus? Nice to meet you.’ Then instantly after, ‘Hey Keiff!’ It’s gonna take a second…
“They’re different, but they’re the same.”
Um… yes, they are.
Both Morris twins live in Los Angeles now (and are expected to move in together). Marcus was traded to the Clippers at the deadline, while Markieff was waived and became a free agent, choosing to sign with the Lakers.
George had high praise for both of them.
“Markieff and Marcus, they are great glue guys,” George said. “They just know how to play the game. They fit right in, they bring toughness, hecka [good] locker room guys, both of them just great people. Great dudes.”
They’re the same that way. But different.
The Trail Blazers had big expectations after reaching the 2019 Western Conference finals and signing their top players, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to lucrative contract extensions.
Instead, Portland (26-32) is in a dogfight with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns and Kings for the No. 8 seed.
Often, teams underperforming like that fire their coach.
Sam Amick of The Athletic:
A source with knowledge of coach Terry Stotts’ situation said there’s no reason to believe he’s in any danger this summer, regardless of how this turns out.
Stotts has a few things working in his favor:
So expect Stotts back next season. But also expect him to face a little more pressure. Even if a lot of what wrong this season wasn’t his fault, losing tends to increase scrutiny on the coach.
In his eighth season with the Trail Blazers, Stotts is the NBA’s fourth-longest-tenured coach (behind only the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Heat’s Erick Spoelstra and Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle). It just becomes increasingly more difficult for Stotts to meet the high expectations he has helped set in Portland.
For now, though, Stotts appears to remain ahead of the curve.
After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.
How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?
That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.
Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.
While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.
For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.
The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.
Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.
A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.
The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.
This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.
Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.
Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.