Waiters made an impact early on the game, hitting two of his first three shots, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the first quarter. Waiters scored seven points in six minutes and the return of “Waiters Island” set Twitter ablaze following his strong start.
“Lakers announce the Dion Waiters MVP press conference will begin early in the second quarter,” Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press wrote.
“The Lakers just went on a 15-3 run in the minutes Rondo has been infecting all year. Long live Dion Waiters,” CBS reporter Samuel H. Quinn tweeted.
When Waiters hit the three at the quarter break, the Lakers bench erupted in the quiet building saying, “CHEESE,” according to Kyle Goon, who is inside the bubble at the game. Waiters’ nickname is Philly Cheese.
Waiters finished 3-of-7 in the game in 13 minutes played. He added three rebounds and one assist. JR Smith, who the Lakers signed to replace Avery Bradley’s roster spot, did not play in the first half. He played a good chunk in the second half, however, logging 14 minutes. Smith scored six points — including a late three-pointer — and had a pair of assists and a steal. He was the worst on the team at minus-16, but it wasn’t completely his fault with the Lakers stars sidelined for the second half.
The Lakers signed Waiters in March, just before the season went on hold. Waiters had played in just three games for the Heat before landing with LA, so the Lakers played the slow game in getting him ready for action. But thanks to COVID-19, that ended up being months later and now Waiters and the rest of the Lakers are looking to knock off some rust before pursing the franchise’s 17th NBA championship.
Lakers Playing With Thin Guard Rotation
The Lakers were playing the first scrimmage with a thin guard rotation. On top of Bradley being out, Rajon Rondo (thumb) and Alex Caruso (back) missed the game with injuries. Rondo is expected to be out 6-8 weeks with the fractured thumb, while Caruso’s absence due to a back contusion is likely more precautionary.
When the game start for real on July 30, Waiters is going to be relied upon not only for his shooting, but ball-handing with the second unit.
“We’ve got two really good basketball players that we added late in our season that do different things, but equally as important, with J.R. (Smith) being able to shoot from the perimeter and be a big time catch-and-shoot player, and Dion having the ability to make plays off the bounce. Losing Rondo puts more of a need on Dion’s skillset. I look forward to seeing what he can do more as we get into games, but all of those guys will pick up the slack.”
Waiters was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has averaged 13.2 points for his career with the Cavaliers, Thunder and Heat and can heat up in a hurry. Waiters hit a rough patch this season with Miami, getting suspended for various incidents, the most notable being an incident with a THC edible.
Lakers Focused on Championship Chase
The Lakers were eager to get back on the court and the scrimmage on Thursday was the first step back. While some might shrug at the thought of a scrimmage that won’t count towards anything, Lakers superstar LeBron James was jacked up for the bubble game.
“Let’s get it! We back at it tonight,” James wrote on Instagram prior to the game. “Can’t wait and it’s just a scrimmage. Not to me though. Championship mindset at all time!”
The Lakers have two scrimmages remaining against the Orlando Magic on Saturday and the Washington Wizards on Monday.
The Lakers are the favorite at +240 to win the title, according to VegasInsider.com. The Bucks are close behind at +250.