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Dinwiddie example of Nets’ development plan

Former G-League guard a nominee for NBA’s Most Improved Player

May 17, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie is one of three NBA players nominated for the league’s Most Improved Player award. AP Photo by Matt Slocum
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A year and a half ago, Spencer Dinwiddie was playing for the Windy City Bulls of the NBA’s Gatorade-sponsored Developmental League in Chicago, having been cut by the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, respectively.

Now, the 25-year-old Brooklyn Nets point guard is one of three candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

“I think the main thing, this is some validation on the season individually, which means a lot to me given the road I’ve traveled,” Dinwiddie said Wednesday night after being informed that he would join Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Houston’s Clint Capela on the list of three players in line for the annual honor.

Dinwiddie’s surprising rise from G-League obscurity to one of Brooklyn’s most consistent performers this past season is also a testament to general manager Sean Marks’ acumen in finding the Los Angeles native and head coach Kenny Atkinson’s skills in developing players.

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After signing with the Nets in December of 2016, Dinwiddie averaged 7.3 points and 3.1 assists over Brooklyn’s final 59 games of the season, helping the organization deal with a slew of injuries in his role off the bench.

But when Jeremy Lin went down with a devastating knee injury on Opening Night and D’Angelo Russell suffered one of his own that cost him more than two months of this past campaign, Dinwiddie was thrust into the starting backcourt.

And to his credit, he flourished in the role.

The Los Angeles native and University of Colorado product averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds per night while seeing action in all but two of the Nets’ 82 games.

His 4.1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked second in the entire league, a major factor in Brooklyn making an eight-game improvement over its NBA-worst 20-62 record in 2016-17.

Dinwiddie became the Nets’ late-game big-shot specialist as well, draining a game-winning, buzzer-beating floater to lift Brooklyn to a 98-97 victory over Minnesota at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Jan. 3.

He also hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in one of the Nets’ most memorable wins of the campaign, a 112-107 triumph over the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers here on Oct. 25.

Dinwiddie gained national notoriety during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in his native L.A., winning the league’s annual Skills Challenge by out-pointing Sacramento’s Buddy Hield, Denver’s Jamal Murray and Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen.

“That’s one of the marks of my game, being able to affect the game in multiple ways, whether it be passing, defending or scoring,” Dinwiddie said after being Brooklyn’s lone representative at All-Star Weekend.

Dinwiddie’s affect on the Nets was unquestionable. His future with them also appears bright, especially if finds a way to play the way he did in January, when he averaged 14.9 points, 6.2 assists and hit three game-winning shots for Brooklyn.

Despite the All-Star accolades and recent nomination, Dinwiddie remains focused on keeping it real with himself in terms of what the next step is in his progression as a full-time NBA player.

“I’m still fighting for a job and trying to continue to solidify myself in this league,” he said on the team’s web site.

Atkinson praised Dinwiddie’s playmaking skills throughout this past season, and Marks played an instrumental role in providing him with his third opportunity in the league.

None of that was lost on Dinwiddie, who figures to be back competing for playing time with a healthy Lin and Russell next season.

“If I win [Most Improved Player], they deserve half the award honestly,” he noted.

“They believed in me two years ago when no one else did and doubled down this past season amidst the injuries,” he added. “Without that we don’t see any of these things. So, I remain grateful to Sean Marks, Kenny and the rest of the organization.”

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In other local pro sports news, the rumblings regarding Lou Lamoriello’s arrival in Downtown Brooklyn as the Islanders’ new general manager and/or team president grew louder this past week.

John Shannon of Canada’s Sportsnet wrote Monday that Lamoriello, the former Maple Leafs GM and the overlord of three Stanley Cup-winning teams during his well-chronicled run with the New Jersey Devils, was in talks with the Islanders for a potential slot in the organization.

After re-building the Maples Leafs from the ground up these past three seasons, Lamoriello finds himself in a senior advisor’s role in Toronto after the team promoted 32-year-old Kyle Dubas into the GM’s slot last Friday.

It’s hard to imagine a Hall of Fame executive sitting around for the next four years of his contract watching as Dubas makes the major moves for a franchise he himself brought back to relevance.

By hiring Lamoriello, whose son Chris has been the Isles’ assistant GM since 2016, New York would be unseating, if not outright firing, current GM Garth Snow, who has navigated the team to just four postseason appearances and one playoff series win in his dozen years at the helm.

Also, Lamoriello could play an important role in convincing team captain John Tavares, an unrestricted free agent come July 1, to sign a long-term extension with the Isles, something he has stayed away from during this turbulent time in the organization.

Though the Isles would not confirm nor deny that they had contacted and spoken with Lamoriello, they would not be doing their due diligence as a franchise if they failed to do so.

Stay tuned.

* * *

Five players from the newly-announced Brooklyn Amateur Golf Championship will join three players from this year’s Queensboro Open Golf Championship to earn spots to this summer’s 35th Annual World Amateur Championship.

The Second Annual Queensboro Open Golf Championship now will take place June 2 at Douglaston Park Golf Course and the inaugural Brooklyn Amateur Golf Championship will be held July 2 at Marine Park Golf Course.

“The Brooklyn Amateur Golf Championship will have the same net format as the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.Com World Amateur Championship as five flight winners will qualify for a national championship in Myrtle Beach,” said Queensboro Open and Brooklyn Amateur tournament director Rich McDonough.

“Playing in the very first Brooklyn Amateur Championship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our regulars at Marine Park Golf Course and for all golfers throughout the metropolitan area.”

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