By Randy Renner
Newly acquired guard Dion Waiters is expected to be at shootaround with the Thunder in Sacramento today and on the bench tonight got the game against the Kings.
It's not clear yet if Waiters will wear a suit or a uniform, but new teammate Kevin Durant says either way Waiters will be sporting a smile.
We’re gonna make him feel wanted," KD said after the Thunder's loss to Golden State Monday night. "I don’t think he felt that the last couple years. He’s gonna fit in well. He’s gonna get comfortable real quick. It’s on the leaders, Russell (Westbrook), myself, Nick (Collison), to make him feel at home and feel special and let him play his game.”
Waiters' game hasn't been up to par so far this season. His 10.5 scoring average is about four points below his career average and about six points less a game than what he averaged last season.
"He can play, can come off the bench for us and score and make plays," Durant said. "He’s a really good player, man. A lot of people take him for granted, I think. Because he’s been around and you hear different things about him that’s not true. But he can play basketball. So he just needs to come out here and be himself, be aggressive and make plays.”
Waiters would love to start, but right now head coach Scott Brooks plans to keep Andre Roberson at that shooting guard spot but you can expect Waiters to get plenty of court time once he becomes familiar with the Thunder offensive and defensive schemes and plays.
"Dion provides another proven scorer that positively impacts our roster and adds depth and flexibility," general manager Sam Presti said. "We have a lot of respect for his toughness and competitiveness, and believe that he is a physically playmaker who will enhance the versatility of our team."
Waiters could perhaps also provide a boost when Durant and Westbrook are stymied, like Monday night when they were a combined 8-for-37. Outside of Anthony Morrow, who scored 17 points, the bench had 20 points on 8-of-32 shooting.
Waiters didn't embrace his bench role with Cleveland this season. He had run-ins with both Cavs coach David Blatt and superstar LeBron James.
How he's able to get along with Durant and Westbrook, not to mention everyone else on the roster will be a key to how successful (or not) he ends up being.
Over the next few days we'll start to see glimpses of how things will workout, perhaps starting as soon as tonight in Sacramento against a team the Thunder have beaten 12 straight times.
That's the longest winning streak by either team in series history and tied for the league's third-longest active series streak. The Thunder took a 101-93 home victory on November 9th without Durant and Westbrook, and the duo combined for 58 points in a 104-92 win at Sacramento on December 16th. That was the last in a 10-game absence for Kings star forward DeMarcus Cousins due to viral meningitis.
The Kings (14-20) are playing the first of six straight at home, where they've dropped five of their last seven. During that stretch they're allowing 109.3 points per game and averaging 17.6 turnovers. They ended a 1-3 road trip Sunday with a 114-95 loss at Detroit.
Tipoff tonight is a little past 9 o'clock Oklahoma time. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma.