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Cavaliers’ shooting guard Dion Waiters in better shape, frame of mind in second season

By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer

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INDEPENDENCE: Growing up as a child, Dion Waiters was always partial to Batman. Now in his second year with the Cavaliers, he might have to learn to embrace Robin.

The topic of superheroes surfaced following Thursday’s practice, because Waiters joked near the end of last season he wanted to return to training camp this year looking like an action figure.

Waiters indeed returned to the team with a slimmer waist and bigger upper body. He worked out religiously and even started doing yoga, but he insists he has no idea how much he weighs because he refuses to step on a scale.

“I hate stepping on a scale. It plays mind games with you,” Waiters said. “Sometimes it will say a particular number, then the next day you’ll be like, ‘What the …?’

“I don’t even step on it. As long as I look good and feel good, I’m fine.”

Waiters was listed in last season’s media guide at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds. The height and weight are the same in the training camp guide, but Waiters joked not to pay any attention to his listed weight because he even tries to avoid the team’s mandatory weigh-ins.

“I’m telling you, if the note says everybody weigh in, I walk by it,” he said. “I try to sneak by it. I don’t like it. It’s my worst enemy sometimes.”

Still, his physical work over the summer is evident. Coach Mike Brown joked that Waiters now likes to wear skin-tight shirts to show off his chest and abs.

His work on the court needed some polish, as well. Waiters seemed to resist the idea of shooting guard last year, which made the on-court chemistry between Waiters and Kyrie Irving clumsy.

One of Brown’s first tasks during the summer was to make it clear to Waiters he is the shooting guard and his job is to run the floor in transition. Brown initially had visions of using Waiters as the backup point guard, similar to how he was used last season, but when he saw both of his guards repeatedly circling back for the ball in Las Vegas, leaving just two players running the court, Brown quickly changed his mind.

Now Waiters’ only chance to play with the ball in his hands is when he grabs a defensive rebound. That’s when Brown wants him to push the tempo and initiate. Otherwise, his job is to concede to Irving or Jarrett Jack and run the floor as a secondary option.

Waiters bristled at the idea last year, but claims to be more open now to letting Irving play with the ball in his hands.

“We never really established much of a connection [last year],” Waiters said. “This year he knows where I like the ball and I know where he likes the ball. We can work off one another and make each other better.

“Coming into last year, I didn’t know nothing. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m good with the ball in my hands, he’s good with the ball in his hands. Now we’ve got to figure out how to make others better. I’m not worrying about my position at all.”

As expected, Brown is more concerned with Waiters’ ability to defend than he is offensively. Brown was so pleased with Waiters’ defensive performance in a summer league game that he interrupted a postgame interview with NBA TV to plant a kiss on Waiters’ forehead.

Waiters hasn’t earned any more kisses through the first five practices of training camp, but Brown said he did earn a hug with his defensive play Thursday morning.

“He kind of knows me now,” Brown said. “When I run toward him, he wants people to think he’s tough, so he bucks up. If I do hug him or kiss him he’s like, ‘Get off me,’ looking around making sure nobody thinks he’s soft.”

Waiters showed up to training camp last year out of shape, but after a summer of strenuous workouts, there is nothing soft about him now.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m jumping higher, my body feels good … this was the most I’ve ever worked this hard.”

Free tickets

Fans who purchase two eight-packs of any Pepsi product at Discount Drug Mart (using their Drug Mart courtesy card) can receive up to six free tickets to any of the Cavs’ three preseason games at Quicken Loans Arena.

Regular-season tickets, incidentally, go on sale Saturday morning. The Cavs are only releasing tickets for games through Jan. 28 (the first 23 home games). The rest of the season will go on sale at a later date.

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.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.


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