It’s been a long wait for Dion Waiters, but his Los Angeles Lakers debut is finally just around the corner.
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 bang off some rust before pursing the franchise’s 17th NBA championship.
The Lakers posted a mini-hype video on Friday of Waiters working out in the team’s facility, preparing for his long-awaited Orlando debut.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 4, 2020
Lakers Will Test Lineups in Seeding Games
The Lakers will be without starting guard Avery Bradley in Orlando, which is a challenge in itself. On top of that, Lakers skipper Frank Vogel and his staff will have to find out how both Waiters and newly-signed veteran J.R. Smith fit into their rotation. Luckily, the Lakers have eight games to figure things out before they play for keeps in the playoffs.
Vogel said those games will be key for both getting back into the swing of things and figuring out their lineups.
“I would think that we’re gonna use everyone. Obviously we’re taking it on a game-by-game basis,” Vogel said on a Friday Zoom call with reporters (h/t Silver Screen & Roll). “The goal of these seeding games is to get us going into the playoffs, and just like it would be in the normal last eight games of a regular season, to get us going to the playoffs as healthy and as sharp as we can be.”
That being said, Smith and Waiters have been around the league quite some time now, so Vogel feels like he has a good handle on how they can contribute.
“Obviously I know their games very well from having competed against them over the years, but for those two guys, just having an opportunity to see what they look like in our system is something I’m interested in,” Vogel said. “As crazy of a year as it was, Quinn Cook had a handful of opportunities, but he started the preseason injured. I probably would like to see more opportunities for him to see what he can do. I mean, I know what he can do, but the more of a body of work that we have, the better.”
Dion Waiters Had Rough Patch With Heat
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. Waiters hit a rough patch this season with Miami, getting suspended for various incidents, the most notable being an incident with a THC edible. Waiters addressed the infamous moment during the hiatus in a Players’ Tribune article.
“The plane incident in Miami? It’s on me. I own that. It was idiotic on my behalf — point-blank, period. What’s crazy is, my whole life I been a leader,” Waiters wrote. “I’m not a follower. Pat [Riley] knows me. He knows I don’t do drugs. But sometimes when you’re going through dark times, you can fall trap to things you’d never do in your right mind.”
The Heat also suspended Waiters for what they dubbed as “unprofessional conduct,” which included complaining on the bench during the preseason and not participating in a weigh-in. Waiters eventually landed in Memphis via trade near the deadline. The Grizzlies waived him and the Lakers were more than happy to scoop up Waiters shortly after.