INDEPENDENCE — The scales appear to have tipped in favor of Dion Waiters this season.
There’s been no specific verification, however, because the Cavaliers shooting guard, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, dreads finding out how much he weighs.
“I hate stepping on the scale,” Waiters said following a recent practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “It plays mind games with you. As long as I look good and feel good, I’m fine with it.
“Some days it says a particular number, then the next day you’re like, ‘What the…?’ Nobody’s harder on you than you are on yourself. I hate the scale.”
Like 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, Waiters is unlikely to ever be a ripped ball of muscle or own six-pack abs.
Unlike the 6-8 Bennett, who is listed at 240 but says he weighs 250 after a summer of inactivity due to shoulder surgery, Waiters is in shape this season. The 21-year-old still has a relatively thick build and probably always will, but the change from early in his rookie year is apparent.
“I feel good,” Waiters said. “I’m jumping higher, my body feels good. I did some yoga in the summer. Yoga is hard.”
So was previous coach Byron Scott’s training camp last year, as it featured more sprints than some track teams run.
“Training camp was crazy,” said Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft. “I got in shape in two days with Coach Scott. It’s good for me. That’s what I need for my body.”
A year older and wiser, Waiters now realizes he continually needs to work on his fitness and basketball skills. That’s why the Syracuse product spent time training with teammates in Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and his native Philadelphia in the offseason.
The goal — and it appears he accomplished it — was to show up at training camp in shape, not use it to get there.
That done, current Cavs coach Mike Brown is intent on simplifying Waiters’ role on the court, which means the first-team NBA All-Rookie pick will play almost no point guard this season.
Scott allowed Waiters to run the offense last season and there were some promising moments, but there was never much chemistry between Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving because they were frequently changing roles.
That won’t be the case this season. Waiters will still get the ball in spots where he can create for himself and others, but he will no longer be charged with running the offense.
“Kyrie’s our point guard,” Brown said. “When Kyrie’s off the floor and Jarrett Jack is on the floor, Jarrett Jack is our point guard. We have plenty of ballhandlers. Now, his job will be simplified.
“He’s been terrific with what we’ve talked to him about. He’s just tried to get better at it. I’m excited for him.”
Waiters might have balked at such a move last season, thinking it was a knock on his playmaking abilities, but now he understands less could be more. Waiters also knows the move should benefit not only him, but Irving, as the latter will still be able to play some shooting guard when he is on the court with Jack.
“They’re putting us in a position where we can succeed and help one another,” Waiters said. “They want me to be strictly a two.
“Last year, you’re out there, you’re feeling good, playing good, then Coach (Scott) would tell you to go get the ball and run pick and roll. Kyrie might have wanted to run pick and roll. We never really established a connection. This year, (Irving) knows where I like the ball and I know where he likes the ball.”
Waiters played in 61 games (48 starts) last season and averaged 14.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting .402 from the field, .310 on 3-pointers and .748 at the line. Despite missing 21 games, he made more field goals and free throws than any other Eastern Conference rookie.
Of course, the Cavs still finished 24-58.
“Just having a year under your belt helps you,” Waiters said. “What we went through last year, the team, myself, we’re coming back stronger than ever, better than ever.”
That includes improved conditioning from the team’s starting shooting guard. Just don’t ask Waiters to step on the scale, because he still does his best to dodge any mandatory weigh-in.
“If the note says, ‘Everybody weigh in,’ I walk by it,” he said. “I try to sneak by. I don’t like it. It’s my worst enemy sometime.”
Second-year center Tyler Zeller, whose slip on the floor midway through the third quarter of a scrimmage Saturday at Baldwin Wallace University led to the cancellation of the rest of the game for safety reasons, has a strained left hip flexor. As a precaution, he is expected to miss the team’s exhibition opener tonight at Quicken Loans Arena against the Milwaukee Bucks. Zeller underwent an MRI at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and took part in limited non-contact drills Monday at practice.
• For the first time, all eight preseason games will be shown by Fox Sports Ohio.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.