BOB FINNAN

rfinnan@MorningJournal.com

INDEPENDENCE - It's become a lost art.

Players coming up through the ranks are obsessed with dunking and shooting 3-pointers. Very few of them display a mid-range jumper.

Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters has a deadly pull-up jumper, which he's only started to show.

"His mid-range game is really something he should get to," Cavs coach Byron Scott said on Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "That's when he's the most dangerous.

"We see so many kids right now either taking the 3 or trying to dunk the ball instead of the old-fashioned, take two or three dribbles, get in the lane and pull up for a jump shot. For him, he has that in his repertoire and it's something he can do. I really want to encourage him to do that. He's getting better with it and more comfortable with it."

The Cavs (6-23) are trying to encourage Waiters to focus on attacking the basket more and not shoot as many 3-pointers.

"I want him to be a little more aggressive getting to the basket," Scott said. "If he can't get to the basket, the 14- or 15-foot pull-up jump shot for him is perfect. He's not settling for so many 3s right now, which is really good. He's looking to be more aggressive right now and be in attack mode."

The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder is having a good rookie season. Very few rookies are even starting, much less producing the kind of numbers he has shown.

The No. 4 overall pick is second in scoring among rookies with a 14.7-point average. Only Portland point guard Damian Lillard, the Rookie of the Year favorite, has a higher scoring average at 18.6 per game.

Waiters is also tied for first among rookies in steals (1.1), second in minutes (31.7) and third in assists (3.5).

He missed eight games from Dec. 3-15 with a sprained left ankle and bone bruise. Since his return, he's been getting better and better. He scored 18 points, matched his career high with five rebounds, and added two assists and one steal in the Cavs' 94-82 win over Milwaukee on Saturday. Waiters converted 9 of 17 shots from the floor.

In four games back since his injury, he's averaged 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He's shooting 40.7 percent from the field during that span, significant since he's shooting just 37.1 percent on the season.

However, since his return, he has missed all 12 attempts from behind the arc.

"Offensively, he was under control more than he had been since he was back," Scott said. "We knew it would take a while. He was a little rusty.

"I know he can score. He needs to do the little things at that position. A lot of times that's just pursuing the ball. I know he can pass the ball. The assists and things will come."

Scott was impressed with Waiters' rebounding against the Bucks. He wants to see him hit the boards even more.

"I'd like him to concentrate on getting four, five or six rebounds a game," he said. "No. 1, that starts our break because he can push it. It's another opportunity to get up and down the floor."

Bah, humbug

While you are opening presents and getting ready to sit down for Christmas dinner on Tuesday, the Cavs are going to be on the practice court courtesy of Mr. Grinch, er, Scott.

"I told the guys, 'Merry Christmas,'" Scott said. "'I'll see you tomorrow at 3:30.' I had a few guys who said, 'What was that?' After about the fifth time I said it, they realized we'd be practicing tomorrow and flying out tomorrow.

"I do have a heart. I figured I'd let them have time with their families in the morning. Then come and have a good practice and go to D.C. It's a work day. We don't have Christmases and New Years in our business."

No Varejao update

Cavs center Anderson Varejao is expected to play in Washington on Wednesday. He's missed the previous three games with a bruised knee. There was no update on Monday. The Cavs say they won't know until today on him. They could have an update then.

Walton's big night

Cavs forward Luke Walton recorded season highs in five categories on Saturday with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 24 minutes.

"He just knows how to play basketball," Scott said. "He's going to find the open man. The way he moves the ball, it's contagious. When we have guys running at us, then we can beat them off the dribble."