Dion Waiters dances his way to Oklahoma City with the help of pal Meek Mill

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Dion Waiters turns up. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Dion Waiters turns up. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

There was a touch of cold-world reality to the way things went down for Dion Waiters on Monday. With the Cleveland Cavaliers missing injured wing stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the South Philadelphia native was expected to make his first start since Nov. 4 in a return trip to his hometown to take on the Philadelphia 76ers in front of "countless" family and friends in attendance at Wells Fargo Center. But just before the two teams' starters were about to be announced — "roughly 90 seconds before tip-off," according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post — Waiters was yanked from the lineup, pulled to the side and plopped into a three-team trade that included six players and two future draft picks.

When the dust was settled, guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert had landed in Ohio, frontcourt reserves/nonguaranteed contracts Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas were headed to the New York Knicks, and Waiters — the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft — was on his way to join the Oklahoma City Thunder. Things happen pretty fast in the NBA, and sometimes you don't get to go home again, even when you're already in the neighborhood. (What a difference 4 1/2 months makes.)

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But even with his head spinning from the trade that sent him south to a Thunder squad hopeful he'll fill the off-the-bench scoring and playmaking hole they've had ever since shipping out James Harden back in the fall of 2012, and with his arrival in Oklahoma City to take a physical expected Tuesday, the 23-year-old Syracuse product took a few free moments to find his center and celebrate the good life with Philly pal, mentoring partner and name-dropping rapper Meek Mill following Cleveland's disappointing loss to the 76ers on Monday:

It can't be easy to get traded for the first time, to experience the sensation of the team that drafted you deciding they no longer want you, and to have it all happen just moments before you were set to take flight in your hometown. So it's nice to see Waiters' spirits buoyed by some loud music, the company of friends and an opportunity to dance, dance, dance:

It ought to be fascinating to see how many opportunities Waiters gets to bust a move in Oklahoma City. After all, there wouldn't seem to be many more shots available behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson than there were behind James, Irving and Kevin Love; Dion would seem to need to check his displeasure with watching an MVP work and ramp up his willingness to feed tall, wide-open rocket-launchers for things to turn out smoothly during his time with Scott Brooks' crew. (It'd also seem critical that he show an increased inclination to accept the role he's been asked to fill rather than, as he told Lee of the Post, suggest he "just [didn't] know" what was being asked of him.)

It's a high-risk, high-reward gamble, to be sure. As CBS Sports' Matt Moore notes, Waiters could be the tough on-ball defender and engaged shot-creator that can help keep the Thunder from stalling out when Durant and Westbrook hit the bench ... or he could continue his rock-pounding, shot-jacking-despite-posting-career-low-shooting-percentages, potentially disruptive ways and wind up being the last thing in the world a Thunder team clawing for its postseason life needs at this stage.

For now, though, Durant sounds eager to make Waiters "feel wanted," and the Thunder are betting that Waiters' physical tools and unquestionable competitive streak will do more for them now — and, if they let restricted free agent Jackson walk this summer, perhaps in the future — than the protected first-rounder they're now on the hook to send Cleveland. It's not like either the Cavaliers' ongoing attempt to live up to lofty preseason expectations or the Thunder's efforts to climb back to the top of the conference after their injury-plagued start needed any more intrigue, but, well, here we are. Let's dance, everybody.

Hat-tip to Ananth Pandian at Triangle Offense.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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