Will injury cut short Waiters’ chance to lead?

When Waiters returns from his relatively minor knee injury, he will the leader of the banged-up Cavaliers, even though he just entered the NBA back in the winter

Although he is just a rookie, Dion Waiters has already shown bounds of leadership on his scuffling Cleveland Cavaliers team, a team that has struggled the whole season and is suffering from a bad case of the injuries, tanking, lack of talent and Luke Walton so far in the 2012-13 campaign.

Playing in 57 games (starting in 48 of them), Waiters, a Syracuse product, has averaged 14.7 points and 3.0 assists per contest while serving as a clear secondary option to Kyrie Irving and even a tertiary scoring option when Anderson Varejao was healthy earlier on in the season. 

However, Kyrie, before hurting his shoulder (he's expected to miss three to four weeks), had missed upwards of 10 games throughout the year, leaving some isolated chances for Waiters to take the reins of the team dispersed throughout his debut season. For the most part, in these games, he has shown that the fourth-overall pick Cleveland used on him was well worth it.

Furthermore, these opportunities have shown the rookie has the ability to be a leader in his own right, which will be important for the duration of Kyrie's injury.

Waiters, who is expected to miss at least a week with his own knee injury, has embraced the fact that he will have to step up while Kyrie is hurt in order to keep the lowly Cavaliers playing somewhat competitive basketball.

That is important to see from a young player, especially in today's age of intrusive sports media and blogging when greener guys, in situations like Waiters is in, sometimes shy away from the responsibility of leading a team for the sake of not getting the criticisms they might face if they fail in that leadership role.

As said to Jeff Garcia of Project Spurs after San Antonio edged the Cavs in a close game down in Texas a few days ago: "I think teams are going to lock in on me [Waiters] more. They're going to double on me. But you know, we make adjustments and go out there and play no matter what the situation is and how they defend you."

Jeff Gross/Getty Images/ZimbioThe alpha-dog mentality Waters has exhibited as he fights his own injury and prepares to play with the Cavaliers without both Irving and Varejao is a really fascinating and enlightening one to be shown by a rookie point guard without much experience. It is a rare one to be seen in the NBA of the 21st century and  should give Cleveland another great player and personality in Waiters to go along with the clear-stud that is Kyrie Irving.

Hopefully Waiters' injury will not keep him out long and he will be able to return to the lineup and assert himself and grow as a player.

With these guys in their backcourt for the near-future, the Cavaliers will be set, especially when Varejao returns from injury and teams back up with Tristan Thompson to make two intimidating point guard/shooting guard and power forward/center combinations for Cleveland.

That kind of roster structure would be scary for any NBA team to face off against — maybe except for the Heat and Thunder — as its ceiling would be ridiculously high, going to such heights based on how its multiple talents and players mesh together on the floor. 

About Josh Burton

I'm a New York native who has been a Nets season ticket holder, in both New Jersey and now Brooklyn, for his entire life. Northwestern University (Medill School of Journalism) '18

Quantcast