Dion Waiters had to wait to dress up and play for the Los Angeles Lakers as he was signed right before the NBA was forced to suspend the 2019-20 season due in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
However, since joining the team in the Walt Disney World bubble, Waiters has gotten plenty of praise from his teammates and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, who already had been encouraged with how the guard looked in practices before departing for Orlando, Florida.
After spending time with his new teammates in the bubble, Waiters could not help but emphasize how close the roster is and how comfortable he has already gotten.
“Just the vibe. Having that camaraderie, the guys cheering you on, calling you ‘Philly Cheese’ and ‘Say Cheese’ when you hit shots, it’s a little bit of everything. They’ve been great ever since I got here,” Waiters said. “They welcomed me with open arms. I’m really thankful, to be honest. I’m happy.”
The Lakers have undeniable chemistry and have readily taken to calling Waiters “Philly Cheese,” which was a nickname he earned while playing for the Miami Heat because he hails from Philadelphia. Waiters acknowledged that the nickname has stuck and that he feels a part of the team.
“They call me ‘Philly Cheese.’ That’s my nickname. But with the threes, Danny Green started saying ‘Say Cheese.’ It feels good,” he said. “Some guys, like myself, we like to play off the crowd. Teammates are there supporting you, it’s a win-win.”
The guard has shined in the two scrimmage games the Lakers have played, showing off the scoring and ball-handling L.A. hoped they would see when they brought him on. With Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo out, the guard rotation took a hit, but Waiters is quickly easing that burden and is a making a case for a regular rotation role once games officially begin.
Waiters unconcerned as playoffs loom
With Waiters still getting his legs under him after the layoff, Los Angeles can fortunately afford to bring him along slowly as they have a sizable lead in the standings.
The 2019-20 season restart will feature eight seeding games before the playoffs begin. Waiters will need those matchups to help him get up to speed. However, the 28-year-old seemed unfazed and even confident about playing in the postseason.
“It’s easy, because they welcomed me with open arms. I don’t have to come in and try to be somebody I’m not,” he said. “As far as me and coach building a relationship and trust, I think I’ve put in the work. I think coach has gotten a chance to see what I can do. He knows what I can do from playing against me. This time around, I’m locked in and more focused.”
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