After an outstanding sophomore season at Syracuse that had many analysts talking about him as one of the best guards in the country, Dion Waiters decided the time was right to test his talents and make the jump to the NBA. The Philly native was a beast as a sixth man, averaging 12.6 points on nearly 48 percent shooting to help lead the Orange to the Elite 8 last season, and after his stock steadily rose during the draft process, Cleveland took him higher than anyone expected. He kept a diary with us throughout the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, and plans to check in with us often throughout this upcoming season to talk about life as a rookie, the NBA grind, and his favorite things to do off the court…
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I’ve been out with an ankle injury, but I’ll be back tonight against Toronto. I originally twisted it. I went up in the air and came down and it just twisted. The rehab, I’ve just been trying to get up and down on it, cutting, things like that, just trying to stay in and keep my conditioning up, which I did a pretty good job of doing.
The rehab here is definitely more hands on than anything I’ve had anywhere else. The team around us and the Cavs offer great support: the people around you that have their own families that are there with you until 7 or 8 at night and still working. Going to the gym two times a day putting in work, you can’t ask for more than that.
I’m not really in the trainer’s room unless I’m hurt. I try to stay out of there as much as I can. I don’t want to make that a habit of going in there. You don’t go in there unless it’s something serious. But I go in there because of this injury, get treatment, take care of my body. That’s the most important thing to do: take care of your body and get rest. That’s what I’ve learned.
So far, I’ve just been taking what the defense gives me, but before I got hurt, I found myself taking too many threes. I know I can go by a defender but I’d settle for a jump shot when I didn’t have to. After getting hurt, I’ve watched a lot of film, watched myself and seen a lot of the opportunities that I had where I settled for a jump shot. But now, I won’t be taking as many jumpers as I was. I’ll be attacking more and trying to put the pressure on the defense and hopefully get fouled.
That’s the main thing – keep attacking, play my game and do what I do best, and get my teammates involved, too. A lot of people ain’t know I could pass the ball the way I’ve been passing. I’m just really trying to work on my game and take it to the next level.
Once a team finds out what you’re doing and how good you’re playing, then they see that and they’ll try to play you a different way. They just come with it. You just gotta continue to do what you do best, play your game. There’s going to be adjustments. That’s why the NBA is the NBA. There are a lot of smart coaches gameplanning and things like that, but at the end of the day, you gotta go out there and execute.
I haven’t really had any plays that have stuck out so far. The dunk against Portland was probably one of my best dunks of the year. But I could’ve been doing that. It’s just certain situations. I make the game harder on myself. That’s the main thing, me just making it harder on myself. I think that makes me a better player because when I sit there and I watch film, I can see those mistakes I made and different opportunities I had to do things differently. That’s the biggest thing, just learning and growing as a person on and off the court, being able to see those mistakes and owning up to it.
I’m playing so many different positions that it’s hard to name my toughest matchup. There’s not one steady guy. The fastest guy I’ve guarded is definitely Monta Ellis. He makes some of the craziest shots. I think the toughest guy I’ve had to guard on the ball where he could basically get anywhere he wanted on the court was Chris Paul. D-Wade too. He’s versatile, strong, and can get you in the post.
I’ve had a lot of those “Welcome to the NBA” moments, though. I can’t talk about not getting calls but you can get smacked and things like that. This is the NBA. You gonna earn everybody’s respect and the referee’s respect. At the end of the day, you gotta keep playing and can’t let it affect you.