INDEPENDENCE: After two years of wallowing as one of the league’s worst teams, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott is putting everyone on alert. This season, he is expecting more.
That was evident Tuesday, when Scott benched — and then ripped — rookie Dion Waiters for not running the right play in a preseason loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Scott typically has been patient before publicly ripping players in the past. He gave J.J. Hickson all of training camp two years ago before blasting him before the start of the regular season for not knowing the playbook. He gave Omri Casspi nearly all of last season before ripping him for the same thing.
Waiters, however, lasted one week before catching Scott’s wrath.
“I’m geeked up for this season. I’m lighting everybody up,” Scott said with a laugh Thursday. “My expectations are higher for us. I expect us to be a pretty good basketball team this year. My [expectations] are a little higher, and I’m going after guys in practice more and obviously in the papers, too. When you guys are asking questions, if I’m not happy with them at that particular time, they’re going to know about it.”
Scott pulled Waiters one minute into the fourth quarter Tuesday because he failed to cut to the baseline like Scott instructed him to do only moments earlier. Instead, he lingered around the 3-point line, then compounded his problems by failing to get back on defense after missing a jumper. He was beaten down the floor by his defender and burned for an easy basket.
Scott pulled him from the game and sat him the rest of the night, then ripped him to the media for not knowing the plays.
“I definitely need that,” Waiters said. “I’ve got to be more focused on the game and the timeout if he drew up a play. I’ve got to be able to execute it right out of a timeout. That’s something I learned. I take full blame for that.”
Scott conceded part of the reason that he challenges players publicly is to see if it motivates them and to learn which buttons to push and when. Hickson responded two years ago with his best season as a pro. Casspi responded with a fantastic summer season playing overseas, now whether or not it transfers to the Cavaliers remains to be seen.
Now Scott will wait to see how Waiters responds. The initial results are encouraging — Scott said Waiters’ effort in practice Thursday was “unbelievable.” He’ll get another chance to prove it on the court tonight, when the Cavaliers face the Chicago Bulls on the campus of the University of Illinois.
“I have a unique connection with Dion because I played that position,” Scott said. “I told him the reason I’m going to be hard on him is that I played that position and see greatness in him. He’s just got to do it every single day.”
Scott, like Waiters, was a shooting guard drafted fourth overall. Scott fell in love with Waiters’ game during the draft season and was a big reason the Cavs selected him so high.
“I’m going to stay on him. I believe in him,” Scott said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. I think the kid is going to be a heck of a player.”
Scott has been critical of other players in camp. He also ripped into Tyler Zeller and Jon Leuer in the locker room after the game Tuesday.
“Coach is definitely getting after it,” Tristan Thompson said. “The difference between Coach this year and last year is obviously he has more practice time. Obviously we weren’t expecting a different kind of coach, but with a young team, he’s got to get after it. We want to win games and it’s going to take sacrifice. If it takes Coach to be on us heavily and get after us to win, that’s what he has to do.”
Thompson said he turned over evidence to the NCAA that he paid for Texas guard Myck Kabongo’s visit in Cleveland during the summer, but that Kabongo’s brother reimbursed him for all expenses.
Yahoo! Sports reported late Wednesday night that the NCAA is investigating Kabongo’s relationship with Cleveland-based agent Rich Paul to determine if any violations were committed by Kabongo’s visit here, which included at least one private workout with a personal trainer.
Kabongo and Thompson are close friends who attended the same high school in New Jersey and later Nevada. They are separated by two years and were never teammates at Texas.
Paul represents Thompson and LeBron James.
If Paul financed the trip, it would be an NCAA violation. He has denied any wrongdoing, and Thompson said Thursday that he financed the trip but that he had nothing to do with personal trainer Jerry Powell working out Kabongo during the visit.
“I actually had to pay for it, but then his brother reimbursed me, which is totally fine by the NCAA,” Thompson said. “I don’t see no eligibility issues [for Kabongo], but that’s for the NCAA to figure out.”
Thompson said he gave proof to the NCAA that Kabongo’s brother, Billy, reimbursed him.
“Me and [Kabongo] went to high school together and we’ve been through a lot,” Thompson said. “They [The NCAA] are not knocking the friendship, they understand that. They just want to make sure no outside sources are helping finance that trip. No one else did and we have the proof to show them. That’s what I provided to them and we’ll go from there.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.