There’s a giving side to Dion Waiters.
He’s given back to the Philadelphia community where he grew up, buying books and school supplies for children unable to afford them. And Waiters said he plans on buying dozens of tickets for friends and family when the Miami Heat play here Monday against the 76ers.
“I’ve got probably 100 tickets,” Waiters said. “Everybody in the arena, I [darn] near know. Guys I didn’t even get tickets [for] are going to be there. There’s nothing like going back home.”
But Waiters isn’t all Mr. Nice Guy, at least on the basketball court.
He’s becoming about as stingy as they come in his first season with the Heat. Just ask those he’s been asked to guard.
Waiters is holding opposing players to 38.3 percent field goal shooting, tops among all NBA shooting guards.
“I always could play defense,” Waiters said. “It always went unnoticed.”
Though he was the fourth overall pick when Cleveland selected him out of Syracuse in the 2012 draft, he said there were questions about his defense, mainly because the Orangemen played a zone.
“Would he be able to play man-to-man?” was the question Waiters said he often heard back then.
Waiters was about average his first four seasons in the NBA with Cleveland and Oklahoma City, holding opponents to an average of 43 percent shooting. But he’s stepped it up with the Heat, who place an emphasis on defense.
“It’s always been there,” Waiters said of his defensive skills. “I’ve always been confident in that. I love taking on those challenges. I embrace it. I don’t want to be known just for scoring. I want to be a two-way player in this league.”
And his words and actions indicate he’s not just saying it to be saying it.
“I want people to know that [I] can score with the ball, but [I] can also lock you up, too,” Waiters said. “That’s one of my biggest visions ... staying on the floor so you can be on the floor in crunch-time moments, big moments where the coach trusts you on the defensive end.”
Waiters is one of the reasons only two teams — the Jazz and Clippers — are allowing fewer points than the Heat.
“That’s what’s going to be required of this team,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Waiters hopes on Monday to prove to the 76ers — in front of all his hometown fans — just how ungenerous he can be on the court. But Sunday he had other plans.
He intended to hire a chef to make meals for his family.
“And we’re going to watch the Eagles game,” he said.
Now that Goran Dragic has returned from a sprained ankle — and with Justise Winslow sidelined with a wrist injury — Spoelstra has moved Josh Richardson from the point to starting small forward.
“In many ways, he’s still a point three for us,” Spoelstra said. “He does a great job organizing us. He really sees the game like a point guard. He gets people to their spots. So it just gives us more versatility and a lot of versatility when he’s out there, whatever position he is.”
Willie Green will miss Monday’s game after hyperextending his knee Saturday in Washington, but he hopes to miss no more than a couple of games. He suffered the injury when he went up to block a shot and landed awkwardly.
“Initially it was very painful,” Green said. “But by the time I got back [to the locker room], I felt better.”
Heat at 76ers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
TV/radio: FoxSports; 790 AM
Series: The Heat is 56-53 all-time versus the 76ers; first meeting this season.
Scouting report: The Heat are coming off consecutive wins over Milwaukee and Washington. The 76ers opened the season by losing their first seven games, but enter Monday’s contest having won two of their past three. They own the worst record (3-10) in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are led by center Joel Embiid, who averages 18 points and seven rebounds.