LAS VEGAS: All those hours standing on the baseline are apparently starting to pay off for Dion Waiters. Coach Mike Brown was so excited about Waiters’ defensive effort in Thursday’s 72-66 summer league victory over the San Antonio Spurs that he interrupted Waiters’ post-game live shot with NBA TV to give him a hug.
In his finest performance in four summer league games, Waiters had 27 points and six rebounds to lead the Cavaliers into the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Waiters was more vocal defensively on Wednesday, he paid attention to more than just the guy with the ball and he was more aware on the court. He also shot 12 of 23 and flashed a variety of spin moves around the basket.
“Today my defense was better, I was talking more and in the right spots,” he said.
If the Cavaliers are going to improve their terrible defense from the last couple of years, it will start on the perimeter, where Waiters and Kyrie Irving were often helpless at stopping dribble penetration.
Waiters has now oscillated between good and bad performances this summer. He shot a combined 22 percent (6 of 27) in the Cavs’ first and third games, but he shot 48 percent (19 of 40) in their second and fourth games.
Waiters shook his head and laughed Wednesday recalling how the players stood along the baseline for two hours during the first couple practices while Brown taught defensive coverages. Apparently, Waiters was listening.
But for as well as Waiters played Thursday, second-year center Tyler Zeller did not. He had one point (0 of 3 shooting), five rebounds and five fouls in 20 fairly unproductive minutes.
Second-round pick Carrick Felix maintained his consistent summer with nine points and six rebounds. He is averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while starting all four games at small forward.