In a way, maybe it was fortunate for Lakers guard Dion Waiters that the rest of his teammates struggled to make shots the way they did in Wednesday’s grinding loss to the Thunder, one that saw them put up a season-low 86 points on a season-worst 35.2% shooting. The general struggle of the team to get any kind of offense going in the NBA restart masked the particular struggles of Waiters.
In the game, Waiters was 5-for-13 shooting from the field. He was 0-for-4 from the 3-point line, part of a 5-for-37 (that’s 13.5%) night for the Lakers. And he’s angry with himself about it.
“Trying to get that rhythm, man,” Waiters told reporters in his postgame press conference. “It’s been a little while right now. I ain’t never missed this many 3s in my life. It’s a little frustrating right now. I get to the basket, but I ain’t never missed this many 3s before. That’s just frustrating right now.”
Waiters has missed six straight 3-pointers in his last two games and nine out of 10 over his last three games. In all, he is now 3-for-18 shooting 3-pointers in the Lakers’ four games in Orlando, a 16.7% mark. He did go 5-for-7 in the fourth quarter but only after the Thunder had built a 19-point lead.
“I was able to find my shot late, late in the game but I still couldn’t get a 3 to go,” Waiters said. “I’m still pissed about that.”
Dion Waiters Ranks Third on Lakers in Shot Attempts at NBA Restart
So what’s the problem here? Waiters was signed to provide instant offense off the bench for the Lakers. He is taking 10.0 shots per game, third on the team behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis—and ahead of the team’s presumed third option, Kyle Kuzma, who is taking 8.5 per game.
But Waiters is missing an awful lot of those shots. Perhaps it is the fact that Waiters, because of injury and disciplinary reasons, played only three games in the last 16 months with the Heat and has more rust to work off of his game than most other players after the four-month coronavirus hiatus.
Waiters does not think that is it, though.
“Honestly, I feel good,” he said. “It’s just about the constant work. Continue to put the work in, continue to get the cardio, bike rides and just working out late at night and stuff like that.”
Maybe it is finding on-court chemistry with James, the Lakers’ star and point guard, who dominates the ball on so many of the team’s possessions. That might have something to do with it, Waiters conceded, but said it is still all about finding the bottom of the net.
“It’s just about, just trying to get your shot in the rhythm of the game and the flow of the game,” Waiters said. “You know Bron is going to have the ball a lot. Coach is trying to do a good job of mixing it up with me having the ball and now it’s just, you’ve got to find it sometimes, you’ve got to find it.”
Dion Waiters: Shooting Woes ‘Can’t Happen for Long’
The loss dropped the Lakers to 2-2 since the NBA restarted its season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Florida. The team won the game that mattered most, the restart opener against the Clippers that set them up to seal the top overall seed in the West once the playoffs begin.
But the offense has been disjointed. Of all the teams playing in the restart, the Lakers rank dead last in the league in offensive rating, 96.6. Their effective field-goal percentage, which factors in 3-point shots, is 45.1, also last in the league.
The Lakers play again Thursday against the Rockets.
No time to dwell. Back in 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/2r143ZtgdC
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 6, 2020
Waiters said the team will turn it around. And so will he.
“Right now, guys are just trying to find their rhythm, find their shot,” he said. “I believe it will fall, with everybody. We’re struggling right now shooting the ball. That can’t happen for this long. I feel like we’ve gotta turn that corner eventually. With the confidence I have, I believe that shots will start falling.”