The Los Angeles Lakers — although far from perfect — were able to get a win over the L.A. Clippers in their first game of the NBA restart.
Beyond just being the first seeding game at Walt Dinsey World, the matchup served as the official debuts for Dion Waiters and JR Smith. Smith only was able to notch seven minutes of playing time, but Waiters cemented himself as a regular rotation piece.
In 21 minutes, Waiters scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. He also added three rebounds and two assists while having a game-best +17 in the box score. At least until Rajon Rondo comes back into the mix, Waiters should receive minutes on a regular basis.
“It felt great. Just trying to feel it out a little bit, get familiar with the sets and things like that,” Waiters said of playing his first meaningful game since March. “Even though I knew we had time with scrimmages and practices, when you’re out there, I’m a hooper. The game of basketball, as far as just playing it, it’s easy for me.
“Now you’re out there, it’s competitive, guarding, switching and different things with the schemes we do, it can be a little tricky sometimes. My teammates cheer me on, they instill that belief in me, and me just being confident and having fun with the game.”
Waiters also spoke about sharing the court with Anthony Davis and how he opens things up for others. “It was great just being able to see him get to the free throw line. When you’re able to get to the free throw line and you get the easy ones everything else opens up,” Waiter noted.
“If you create fouls the game becomes easy once you see the ball go in the basket. And his will, his post moves. We came in the same draft class, so it’s not surprising to me. I’ve seen him go for 56 and 20. That’s what he does. Great players get it done, and he was huge for us tonight.”
Although Waiters had yet to play for the Lakers in an official game, being with the team for practices and scrimmages already showed their value, even if there is still room for improvement.
Frank Vogel discusses how JR Smith and Waiters fit into Lakers rotation
Among the many things Lakers head coach Vogel must figure out before the playoffs, finding a place for Waiters and Smith is near the top of the list. After a few games, it seems clear how Waiters can become a vital rotation piece.
“I think they’ve had really strong bursts. Today was probably the best day for both of them. We know they’re talented. For me, it’s been an opportunity to shape their play the way we want them to fall into their roles. Their roles are different,” Vogel explained.
“For Dion, to be very aggressive touching the paint, trying to get to the charge circle, making good reads.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!