October 25, 2014

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NBA preseason: Cavs rookie benched after messing up play, struggling

CANTON — Dion Waiters may not know the plays, but he now knows this: He’s going to get benched when he totally botches one up.

The No. 4 pick in the draft wasn’t very good Tuesday night, and most of his teammates weren’t much better as the Cavaliers fell 97-80 to the Milwaukee Bucks in front of a sellout crowd of 3,942 at the Memorial Civic Center.

“Milwaukee showed us a lot tonight,” an upset Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “From our standpoint, I thought we took a step back. I thought we played selfish basketball.”

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Waiters was at the forefront, taking a number of ill-advised shots while going 1-for-7 from the field and committing four turnovers in 14 minutes.

“He struggled offensively, big time,” Scott said of the Syracuse product. “I diagrammed a play and he messed it up. To me, that was a lack of focus. I figured he didn’t need to play the rest of the game.”

The play in question occurred on Cleveland’s first possession of the fourth period. The Bucks had the ball to start the quarter and Mike Dunleavy canned a 21-footer, after which Waiters not only missed an ill-advised, step-back 23-footer, but failed to get back on defense.

That resulted in a Marquis Daniels layup and led to Waiters’ departure at the next dead ball, which came with 10:54 left.

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Waiters, whose only hoop against the Bucks came off a lob from C.J. Miles, can get to the hole, but has basically looked like a one-on-one player through two exhibition games and a team scrimmage that was open to the public.

The 20-year-old had 11 points in just 15 minutes Monday against Italian League member Montepaschi Siena, but even then his jumper looked bad and he frequently did nothing when the ball wasn’t in his hands.

Right now, Scott said the rookie doesn’t “understand what we’re doing offensively.”

“You’ve got to know the plays,” Scott said. “I can’t draw up a play during a timeout, then you go out on the floor and mess it up.”

Aside from the almost-always-good Kyrie Irving, who had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes, the Cavs’ best player was Miles, who started ahead of Waiters at shooting guard for the second straight game.

Miles, who is not shy about shooting, scored a game-high 18 points in just 22 minutes. In his eighth NBA season but still just 25 years old, the 6-6, 222-pound left-hander was 6-for-13 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“C.J. was one of the bright spots,” Scott said. “I thought he played pretty good the first game (10 points in 20 minutes), and I thought he played better tonight.”

Miles, who combined with Irving to score 13 of the Cavs’ first 15 points in the third period, has played so much better than Waiters it would not be surprising if he opened the regular season as the starting shooting guard.

“I thought he played with a lot of intensity, lively,” Scott said. “He was one of the few guys that came ready to play.”

That could not be said about too many other Cavs players, though 6-10 big man Jon Leuer got off to a great start early and made his first four shots — one was a drive right around Bucks first-round pick John Henson — before missing his last five.

After that, the Cavs who benefited most were probably Samardo Samuels, Donald Sloan, Luke Walton, Omri Casspi and maybe even former Canton Charge star Luke Harangody. The standing of those players may have improved by not playing at all.

Sloan, who had 13 points Monday against Siena, probably has the advantage in the battle for the backup point guard spot, as Jeremy Pargo was 1-for-7 from the field with three turnovers and four assists in 23 minutes.

Alonzo Gee (five points) and Daniel Gibson (2-for-6), who is coming back from a foot injury suffered near the end of last season, also continued their trend of not doing much.

As a team, the Cavs shot just .385 (30-for-78). They also committed 22 turnovers that led to 26 Milwaukee points.

“Pounding, pounding, pounding,” Scott said of his team’s propensity for dribbling the air out of the ball. “Everybody was trying to get theirs. We can’t win playing that way.”

Tip-ins

  • Starting power forward Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 overall pick in 2011, had just two points on 1-for-5 shooting, but did grab a team-high seven rebounds in 20 minutes. At one point, Thompson blocked a Samuel Dalembert shot at the rim, ran the length of the floor, took a pass from Gee and threw down a dunk.
  • Milwaukee rookie shooting guard Doron Lamb, the No. 42 overall pick in the draft out of Kentucky, did not play due to a sore elbow.
  • Bucks big man Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, while point guard Beno Udrih left early in the game after banging the back of his head on teammate Larry Sanders’ knee.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.