CANTON: It took less than four minutes for Dion Waiters to earn his first trip to the bench Tuesday. Upon re-entering, he lasted just 2½ minutes before Cavs coach Mike Brown was calling for him again.
On a night when the defense crumbled in the third quarter, Waiters was perhaps a good illustration for all that was wrong with the Cavaliers in a 92-74 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats at Canton Civic Center.
Waiters earned two quick hooks in the first quarter before Brown finally had to call a timeout. He spent the bulk of the timeout jawing at Waiters, who conceded after the game he was “sloppy” at both ends.
“He’s a guy who can be a very, very good defender,” Brown said. “He can be a high-level defender. … I think he knows how good he can be, I don’t know if he knows how hard it is.”
Waiters had five points, five fouls and four turnovers in 23 hard minutes. He shot just 2-of-7, but Brown was more irritated with the way Waiters allowed Gerald Henderson to spin off him for an easy basket, then allowed Henderson to go baseline and cost Waiters a foul.
“If we’re going to be a great team and Dion wants to be a great two-guard, he can’t let Gerald Henderson or anyone like that go down two times in a row or two out of three times and score on him,” Brown said. “He can play better than that. He can be ready to play sooner than that. I just wanted him to understand, ‘You’re better than this.’ ”
To Waiters’ credit, he seemed to embrace the constant lectures. Near the end of his time on the floor, Waiters was caught guarding Josh McRoberts, to whom he gives away about six inches and 15 pounds. But Waiters smothered McRoberts and never let him get a shot off.
“He knows what he’s talking about,” Waiters said of Brown. “He wants the best for me, so I’ve got no problem with it. I love the way he coaches me, when he takes me out and talks to me and puts me back. I love all that. I need it at the end of the day.”
The Cavs were playing without Jarrett Jack (knee), Tyler Zeller (hip) and Anderson Varejao (resting), but Brown seemed most disheartened over the Bobcats shooting 60 percent in the third quarter with his starters on the floor for the majority of the time.
Kyrie Irving had 15 points and four assists and C.J. Miles had 15 points off the bench, but the Cavs watched a 42-40 halftime lead disintegrate amid countless defensive breakdowns in the third quarter.
“I’ve been pushing these guys and I’m going to keep pushing these guys because they’re mentally tougher and physically tougher than what they think,” Brown said. “Right now what we’ve experienced so far is nothing if we want to be a good or great basketball team this year. We’re going to have people hunting us. We’re going to have people wanting to come at us on a night-in, night-out basis.”
Varejao is still working his way back after missing nearly 10 months following a blood clot in his lung. He said following practice on Monday his conditioning isn’t where he wants it to be, and with the Cavs beginning a stretch of three preseason games in five nights, his benching wasn’t all that surprising.
“We have five more preseason games, which is going to be great for me,” Varejao said Monday. “I haven’t played in 10 months. I’ll be fine in November, but I’m not there yet.”
Alonzo Gee started at small forward, his first appearance of the preseason after dealing with a hamstring injury, but was limited to nine minutes. He did not play in the second half.
Sergey Karasev is away from the team to obtain his work visa, but could be back at practice today.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.