Dion Waiters has been pretty outspoken during his time with the Miami Heat about maintaining his confidence even when the shots are not falling.
Two weeks ago, after going 4 for 17 in a win at Utah, Miami’s starting shooting guard repeated the same thing he said last season after a rough shooting night — that he “would rather go 0 for 30 than go 0 for 9 because if you stop shooting them that means you’ve lost confidence.”
So, it was no surprise Monday to hear his reaction after he went 0 for 10 in Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Indiana Pacers. Asked why he didn’t keep putting up shots to finish 0 for 30, Waiters pointed out he was pulled from the game with 6:14 left.
“I was out of the game,” he said with a sly grin. “It would have kept going up.”
Waiters’ first scoreless game in a Heat uniform — and his first since March 26, 2016, when he went 0 for 4 in his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder — didn’t happen by accident coach Erik Spoelstra said. Waiters, 25, wasn’t his usual aggressive self.
One of the league leaders in drives to the basket (15.5), he only had four drives against the Pacers.
Both Waiters and Spoelstra pointed to a lack of good screen setting as an issue.
“It was a very poor game in terms of our screening, it was a poor game of us getting organized into some kind of coherent action to our strength,” Spoelstra said. “We settled for a lot of jump shots without putting pressure on the defense. Dion is at his best when he’s really attacking the paint and putting pressure on the defense. That’s not only on his shoulders. Now, we had opportunities last night as well, where he could be aggressive and he could get better at that. But also the screening to be able to get him into the paint, and to be able to work different multiple layers deeper into the possession and not just settle.”
The Heat as a team had only six screen assists all game. Pacers center Myles Turner had seven of the Pacers’ 14 screen assists by himself. The only players who had screen assists for Miami on Sunday were James Johnson (2), Kelly Olynyk (2), Justise Winslow (1) and Bam Adebayo.
The Heat average 8.6 screen assists per game, 11th most in the league. Johnson (2.3 per game), Olynyk (2.1 per game) and center Hassan Whiteside (2.2 per game) all rank in the top five in the league in screen assists.
“We’ve got to go out there and play our part,” Waiters said. “It’s sometimes tough. We’ve got to go out there setting screens and things like that. How teams are playing us now, if we’re able to hit our guy then it makes everything easier for the guard. If we’re on a string like that, if the big sets the screen, we’ll be able to get downhill and get in the paint. It puts the defense in a position to stop the ball or Whitey to get a dunk or KO to get a three. It’s all about being on that same accord.”
Waiters is averaging 15.1 points per game this season, but is shooting 39.9 percent from the field. He’s shooting 43.1 percent on drives to the basket and producing points for the Heat only 37.9 percent of the time on his drives whether he shoots or kicks the ball out to a shooter. Last season, Waiters shot 42.8 percent on drives, but was producing points at a higher rate (47.8) whether he took the shot or not.
HASLEM HAPPY TO PLAY
Heat tri-captain Udonis Haslem played for the first time in his 15th season (including the preseason) when he entered for the final 3 minutes and 26 seconds of Sunday’s blowout loss to Indiana. Haslem scored his first and only points of the season on a dunk.
“It’s always fun playing the game of basketball,” he said. “Every year, obviously every summer it’s the dilemma of do I want to come here and help these guys and don’t play or do I have the opportunity to go somewhere else and play a few minutes, you know what I mean. I always choose to come back and be a part of this organization and with the next generation and the process. But you know I never proved to you guys I couldn’t play. Don’t think that. Trust me. Please don’t think that.”
Haslem, 37, signed a one-year, veteran minimum contract for $2.3 million this summer with the Heat.