CLEVELAND: If there was any doubt about how Cavs coach Byron Scott views Dion Waiters after benching him, he cleared it up Saturday night following the Cavs’ loss to the Houston Rockets.
Asked if he is still searching for a second scorer to team with Kyrie Irving, Scott immediately referenced Waiters.
“I still think Dion eventually will be that guy. He’s going through a little spell where he just can’t make a shot,” Scott said. “These two guys [Waiters and Irving] are still learning how to coexist when they’re out there together.”
Scott took the unorthodox approach last week of breaking up the Cavs’ backcourt of the future after injuries limited them to just 17 games together. When he moved Waiters to the bench, Scott said it wasn’t a permanent move. Still, the timing was curious.
When Waiters returned from an ankle injury, Scott said he wanted to get his two young guards “on the court as much as possible.” Two weeks later, Waiters was a bench player.
He played only seven minutes in the second half of Friday’s victory at Charlotte while Scott rode newcomer Shaun Livingston’s hot hand. Waiters was back on the floor for 29 minutes Saturday, but shot just 4-of-13.
Anytime the topic turns to the lineup change, Waiters chooses his words carefully. Whether by his own self-awareness or with the help of the Cavs’ media relations staff, Waiters certainly doesn’t want to be seen as a troublemaker or malcontent so early into his NBA career.
“I’m not saying I’m not happy, I’m not saying I’m mad,” Waiters said. “It’s not up to me whether I start or not. The only thing I can do is just go out there and play and try to help the team win.”
Waiters will concede, however, he thought he left his days as a bench player behind him when he departed Syracuse after two seasons.
“I definitely thought that,” he said. “I had to go through two years with that and I wasn’t happy coming off the bench there, I just had to do it.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told Waiters immediately after his freshman season he wasn’t going to start as a sophomore, either, because the Orange had two upperclassmen in front of him. That decision angered Waiters to the point he almost left school, but he ultimately chose to stay and still became the fourth pick in the draft last summer.
“When [Boeheim] told me, he could tell I was mad. I don’t know how long I was mad at him. I think I was mad at him until draft day,” Waiters joked. “I just had to adjust to it.”
Asked if he was mad at Scott, Waiters said he wasn’t mad at anyone.
Scott noticed Waiters was getting upset Saturday night when he wasn’t getting fouls called in the lane. Waiters’ complaints about the officiating have been a topic since summer league. While the coaching staff continues to tell him to ignore it and keep playing, that’s difficult for him to do.
“You can’t win that battle with the referees,” Scott said. “You have to forget about it and keep playing basketball.”
Waiters swears that he tries. But then he has nights like Saturday, when he misses nine of his 11 shots outside the lane. When he started attacking and didn’t get the calls he thought he deserved, the frustrations mounted.
Sometimes he’s actually fouled, but there have been plenty of instances when Scott says he is not.
“It’s frustrating sometimes,” Waiters said. “When your shot’s not falling, the only thing you can do is attack. When you attack and don’t get calls, and those guys are coming right back down and they’re doing the same thing we’re doing, but they’re getting the whistle, it’s frustrating.”
Regardless if he admits it, Waiters’ body language is that of a frustrated rookie trying to locate his shot and reclaim some confidence.
But Scott is still confident in his rookie, even after demoting him.
“I’ve just got to keep working,” Waiters said. “It’s all I can do.”
Samardo Samuels was released by the Cavaliers on Sunday, four days before his contract would have become guaranteed for the rest of the season.
The Cavs are not expected to fill the open roster spot right away.
Teams can start signing players to 10-day contracts on Monday.
Samuels appeared in 18 games (one start) for the Cavs this season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds. He was signed as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2010-11 season and has appeared in 109 games (11 starts) during his career, averaging 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds.
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.