Dion Waiters wants to return to the NBA.
According to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft hosted a private practice at Victoria Fertitta Middle School in Las Vegas, in front of a dozen scouts and league executives. Waiters hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2020 NBA Finals in the COVID-19 bubble when he was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but the 31-year-old veteran said he thought he could contribute to a team.
“I’m healthy. I just want this opportunity just to show that I’m not who I was anymore,” Waiters said. “And I know a lot of people talk about it, but for me, I think it’s more about showing that I’ve changed. That’s why I’m here, man. I still got that love. J I still have this itch.
“I know I can still help a team win at the highest level on the pitch and even in the dressing room as a veteran. So why not just give it a try and see what happens? You never know.”
Servers enjoyed a solid but checkered 10-year NBA career before his exit from the conference following the 2020 season. He averaged 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers (who drafted him), Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and a seven-game stint with the Lakers.
But a tumultuous start to the 2019-20 season with the Heat effectively marked the start of Waiters’ involuntary three-year hiatus.
Miami suspended servers three times between October 19, 2019 and December 12: first for the season opener after complaining about his role on the team, then for 10 games after servers consumed THC-infused edibles and had a panic attack on a flight and finally for six games when Waiters posted a photo of himself celebrating his birthday after telling the team he was sick. The Heat traded Waiters to the Memphis Grizzlies after just three appearances that season, after which Waiters was waived before signing with the Lakers days before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Servers admitted that what happened that year is the biggest regret of his career.
“I was so irresponsible and immature,” he said. “I let the Heat down. They were good to me. I didn’t handle it well at all.
“Things that were happening could have been avoided if I had just kept my mouth shut and let my agent handle a lot of things. And if I did that, we wouldn’t even be here today. I would still be playing. Everything happens for a reason. I’ve looked in the mirror before, bro. I’ve read my rights, I’ve read my wrongs, and now I have to keep pushing, moving forward, and living with the results.
During his first year out of the league, Waiters said he experienced a lot of depression and anxiety before he started talking with a therapist. This decision helped him overcome many problems that arose during and after his NBA career. He also admitted that his attitude during his time in the league played a big part in why he was no longer playing.
“When I stopped playing, the anxiety set in,” Waiters said. “I constantly worried about what was next.”
What comes next for Waiters isn’t up to him, though. It will be on the team makers who need a veteran guard and are willing to ignore the servers past. Another knock on Waiters: Not only is he three years older than he was when he left the NBA, but the league is also a very different place than it was in 2020.
There may be no more room in the NBA for servers, but he’s at least trying to get back what he lost.