Hollywood beginnings can sum up the battle between Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr., however, not so much can be said about the ending. Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond ended up taking home the MVP of the Rising Stars challenge, for Team Grant Hill. Drummond finished the game with 30 points and 25 rebounds, which could possibly be a reality with the numbers he is putting up this season.
He had the numbers, but he didn’t have the intrigue or excitement that Waiters and Hardaway put on. At around the six-minute mark in the second half, Waiters hit a three-point shot, and on the way back on defense shook his head at him. “This is where it began,” according to Hardaway.
Waiters then came back down, crossed him over, and sunk the three. Hardaway then came down and hit a three from almost half court. At this point, All-Star’s James Harden and Kevin Durant were going insane. This continued until around the two-minute mark as the game wound down. Waiters ended with 31 points after scoring 15-straight points. Hardaway ended with 36 points after scoring 10 points in a row.
Not only did Waiters get to show the world his offensive abilities, but he was also able to show it to Cleveland Cavalier fans, and Mike Brown. Ever since the Cavaliers faced the Washington Wizards on Nov. 20, Waiters has come off the bench. It wasn’t for his offensive abilities, but for his lack of defense, and dominating the ball with Kyrie Irving out there.
He is averaging 14.6 points per game off of the bench this year. As a starter, he was only averaging 13.3 points per game. That is a 1.4-point difference from what he averaged last year. At times he has been erratic, but when the Cavaliers have needed a boost of energy, he has always seemed to come through. For a while, it was Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford and Waiters in a battle for who would be the possible Sixth Man of the Year.
Crawford is now starting, and Waiters could be the next to start with the Cavaliers. So far his best game this year was on Dec. 6 against the Atlanta Hawks. He had 30 points. The sample size that Cavalier fans have seen of Waiters has been up and down, however, yesterday proved that it could only go up.
There is always little defense played during the All-Star games, but as he and Hardaway were going at each other, they pressed each other hard down the court. As Waiters was pressed, he was still able to shoot over him with ease, and likely could have driven to the hole on him if he wanted too.
In the last four games, he is averaging 17.7 points per game, while playing 29.7 minutes combined. Most of those minutes, he is on the floor with Irving and making plays. It is creating doubt of the theory that both cannot play together on the floor. If he is starting, and can play as he did yesterday, the Cavaliers could take off in the right direction in no time.
Anthony Bennett is a prime example of this. He was atrocious in the beginning of the season, only averaging 12.5 mins a game. However, once he got playing time, his game started expanding, and it looks like there is still hope for the first overall pick out of UNLV. He has averaged 18 minutes a game during the four-game winning streak.
Rumors have swirled all year of Waiters getting traded and not getting along with Irving and his teammates, but all of that seems as if it is in the past, especially after a performance like last night’s. Waiters is a competitor with supreme confidence. If he knows he is going to get the start, what is to say it won’t boost his confidence even higher to put out multiple performances similar to yesterday’s?
Brown should definitely ponder the situation. They have been winning with Jarrett Jack and Irving at the one and two, however, the offensive production is not there from Jack. If Waiters is in there and gets it going, the Cavaliers could have “laugher” games, just as the other teams have against them. Give him another chance Mr. Brown; it could be the right decision this time.