In 2010, LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami. In 2011, Cleveland used the No. 1 pick in the draft to select Kyrie Irving as a cornerstone of their rebuild. In 2012, with the No. 4 pick, the Cavaliers took Dion Waiters to be the backcourt mate of the future with Irving.
It didn’t work out that way, in part because Waiters and Irving did not get along, according to a piece by Joe Vardon, Bill Oram, and Jason Lloyd at The Athletic.
The Cavs selected Waiters in 2012 with LeBron’s eventual return to the team from Miami in mind, sources said, to the point where they effectively shut down Waiters’ pre-draft workouts with a promise of taking him. The team’s executives at the time thought Waiters would be a perfect fit off the bench if LeBron ever returned. The Cavs did eventually get a chance to see if that was right, but Waiters and the organization had already accumulated years of baggage because he and the team’s resident budding star, Kyrie Irving, never got along.
Waiters and Irving always disliked each other, no matter how much the organization tried covering it. Waiters couldn’t understand why Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and the NBA Rookie of the Year, was thought to be the better of the two by most deep thinkers inside the organization.
By the 2014-15 season LeBron was back in Cleveland, and 33 games into that season Waiters was traded to the Thunder and in a series of moves the Cavaliers ended up with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov. The three of them would be part of the 2016 title team, with Smith being the team’s fourth-leading scorer in those playoffs. Cavaliers executives thought Smith a better fit on this roster.
“If J.R. f**** up, it’ll be off the court,” one team executive said. “Dion was f****** us up on the court.”
Smith, Waiters, and LeBron have all teamed up again on the Lakers for the NBA restart, another team with serious title aspirations that will need good chemistry and a few breaks along the way, the way any championship team does. Things are a little different with the L.A. roster, if Smith and or Waiters are seeing heavy playoff minutes it’s a sign the Lakers have some serious problems.
Kyrie Irving is sitting the restart out after shoulder surgery back in March, but he will be suiting up for Brooklyn next season. Don’t expect Waiters to be on that roster.