Dion Waiters has been with the Lakers for both a long time, and not very long at all. The team signed him just barely before the coronavirus pandemic halted the 2019-20 season, and he hadn’t even appeared in a game for them yet. While he had been at practices, he’d only had a few before the league shut down.
So even though Waiters has technically been a Laker for the months, this first week of practices has been his first real look at the entire roster. When he was asked on his Friday morning Zoom call with the media if anyone has been better than he expected, he had to think about it for a second, but then quickly wanted to credit the Lakers’ two youngest players.
“Honestly, [Kostas] Antetokounmpo. The young one. He’s really good. He’s young, but I feel like he’s got a lot of upside,” Waiters said, adding that he’s been telling Antetokounmpo to “keep working, keep getting better [and] keep being a sponge around the vets” during practices.
“Keep doing the little things, and I think he’s going to be solid,” Waiters said.
He has also taken rookie Talen Horton-Tucker — one of the six Lakers represented by his agency, Klutch Sports — under his wing.
“I like Talen a lot. I’ve built a relationship with Talen,” Waiters said. “I’ll just be in his ear a lot, just telling him to make sure he’s doing the little things... [to] watch the group that’s going before him and just stay locked in. He’s got a lot of upside also.”
Outside of a borderline-apocalyptic plague of injuries — or, you know, the actual plague — eliminating even more of the Lakers from being able to suit up, Horton-Tucker and Antetokounmpo are unlikely to play significant minutes in Orlando.
Still, head coach Frank Vogel has said he wants to give his whole roster some burn to get them ready in case he needs to call upon them later. If Horton-Tucker and Antetokounmpo show the kind of promise Waiters seen from them in practice in those spot appearances, maybe they can end up playing a real role at Disney World, after all.