When Dion Waiters has a night like this, it gives you hope.
Yes, the Cavaliers dumped a 124-118 decision to the host Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Yes, they treated defense like some sort of nasty shellfish allergy. And yes, the Cavs were swept by a team that has one eye on the door, as the franchise gears for a move out of town.
But Waiters, man, that was something else.
And its not just that Waiters scored a game-high 33 points. Its how he went about it.
He went 12-for-18 from the field. He threw some pinpoint passes in traffic to finish with a team-high five assists. He looked extremely determined one a night when too many other Cavs just sort of stood around and watched.
My favorite thing about Waiters night, however, was the fact he took just three three-pointers (and made them all, by the way).
A lot of folks think Waiters settles too often, and a lot of folks are correct. Clearly, its easy for Waiters to fall in love with standing behind the arc and letting em fly.
Thats nothing new with rookies. Shooting jumpers is a lot easier than taking it to the basket when youre trying to cut it in this league. Or at least, when youre trying to put up points.
Cavs coach Byron Scott has touched on this subject with Waiters, urging Waiters to keep going to the basket -- even when Waiters isnt finishing or drawing fouls.
Scott has also talked about how Waiters doesnt always get the call when he goes to the basket, either. But, Scott added, Waiters needs to take the ball to the basket anyway.
Monday, that was Waiters.
Now, its clear the kid is getting adjusted to NBA life. Scott insists he doesnt have a dog house, but if he did, Waiters would be in it.
He lost his starting job to veteran C.J. Miles, a class guy and pros pro who leads by example (as well as instruction).
And Scott said before the game Waiters will likely come off the bench for another two or three weeks.
Well, if the results are anything like Monday, it may be longer. But only because Waiters was so good in the role.
The Cavs (9-31) are clearly light years away from winning on a regular basis. They dont have much to get excited about when youre talking about basketballs bottom line (i.e. wins and losses).
They usually look like Kyrie Irving and four guys trying to figure out if theyve been waiting all day at the wrong train station.
But that changed Monday at Sleep Train Arena -- and Waiters, folks, was the guy why.
Like many top-five draft picks, Waiters can be terribly inconsistent with a few promising games sprinkled in here and there. So this isnt to make too much of one game.
But if this season is about gradual improvement, about everything being (with apologies to Cavs GM Chris Grant) a process, well, then this game at least deserves a C.
The team lost but Waiters got better.
Irving (15 points, 6-for-19 shooting, six turnovers) wont always be as regular as he was vs. the Kings. That much we know, because weve seen Irving at his best. This wasnt it -- but everyone is allowed an off night. Hes never a reason for concern.
What the Cavs and their fans should be paying closer attention is the development of Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller.
Thompson gave another strong showing with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. He, too, is coming around quickly.
As for Zeller (13 points, seven boards), he probably hasnt displayed this much passion in a game at any time in a Cavs uniform. Thats not to say the rookie center lacks zeal. Its just rarely evident.
Anyway, the Cavs lost another one here, and thats probably not about to end anytime soon. Basically, if you havent already, get used to it.
The key to this season is for Waiters him to keep doing what he did Monday, or something close. He doesnt need to score 33 every game, or make all but six shots. But he and others like him have to show signs theyre getting it. Waiters and others like him did that Monday.
If that continues, winning will be the next logical step.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO