Don’t count Dinwiddie out just yet
Injured Nets guard could return for postseason push
Steve Nash hasn’t known Spencer Dinwiddie for very long.
But the Brooklyn Nets’ first-year head coach is acquainted with his point guard’s toughness and resilience in the face of hardship.
“He is incredibly positive and he’s already up for the challenge,” Nash said of Dinwiddie, whom many predict will miss the remainder of the Nets’ highly-anticipated 2020-21 season due to a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Dinwiddie, one of the top reserves in the Eastern Conference and a very strong leading man for Brooklyn before the arrivals of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving the summer before last, suffered the tear in his right knee during the third quarter of last Sunday’s loss at Charlotte.
The 27-year-old Los Angeles native will undergo surgery this weekend before beginning a long, hard rehabiliation, one that will likely stretch deep into 2021.
The Nets, however, aren’t counting Dinwiddie out for a potential playoff push next year as the team is at least tentatively confident that the former NBA All-Star Skills Challenge champion will be rejoining his teammates in time for their third consecutive postseason appearance.
“You know, that’s Spencer. He’s gonna battle and do everything he can, and I think he’ll be better than ever when he comes back,” noted Nash.
“But we have depth and we have guys that we’re confident in that can fill those minutes.”
Caris LeVert, Chris Chiozza, Tyler Johnson, Bruce Brown and Joe Harris are among the players who will likely fill-in for Dinwiddie for the rest of the regular season.
That won’t be an easy task, considering Dinwiddie displayed a penchant for clutch shooting in crunch time and was the Nets’ top scorer and assists man last summer before a positive test for COVID-19 prevented him from joining the team at the NBA’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida for the NBA restart.
“Filling his spot in the rotation is — on the one hand it’s difficult because we have such a unique profile,” Nash said of Dinwiddie. “A lot of athleticism and versatility. On the other hand, we have depth. So we’ll see, I don’t have necessarily a formula for you yet.”
With Durant and Irving sitting out Monday’s home loss to Memphis, it was LeVert who had the formula for Brooklyn.
He scored a team-high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds and five steals as the Nets lost their second straight before opening a two-game series with Atlanta at Barclays Center Wednesday.
Despite his big performance, LeVert was visibly upset by the bad news regarding Dinwiddie’s injury.
“I know that’s a really tough injury. That’s one of my brothers. We’ve built a close bond over these last couple of years,” he said Monday night.
“So definitely with him, prayers with him. I spoke to him earlier today, he seemed to be in good spirits.”
LeVert and Harris are the only Nets with a longer tenure in Brooklyn than Dinwiddie, who arrived here in 2016 after spending his first two NBA seasons with Detroit.
The trio helped Brooklyn to 42 wins and a playoff spot last year without Durant, who missed the entire campaign while recovering from an Achilles tear, and Irving, sidelined for all but 20 games by an injured shoulder.
Losing Dinwiddie now that Durant and Irving are healthy and ready to thrive in our borough makes it harder for his long-time teammates to digest as Brooklyn is emerging as a favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference and seriously challenge for its first-ever NBA title.
“It’s devastating. Difficult blow for the team,” said Harris. “Spencer is obviously an All-Star caliber player and losing him is a huge impact on both ends of the ball. And for morale sake around the locker room you never want to see one of your teammates go down.”
He may be down for now, but looking at Dinwiddie’s career and watching his meteoric rise from reserve guard to Sixth Man of the Year candidate makes it very difficult to imagine the Nets going through a second straight playoff run without him.
“Definitely, definitely praying for him, fighting for him for the rest of the season for sure,” said LeVert.
Nothing But Net: Beginning with the loss to Memphis, the Nets are in a stretch in their schedule where they will play all but two of their next 12 games in Downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn was slated to host Atlanta on Wednesday and Friday before welcoming Washington (Jan. 3), Utah (Jan. 5) and Philadelphia (Jan. 7) to Barclays to close out a six-game homestand. The Nets will travel to Memphis on Jan. 8 before hosting Oklahoma City (Jan. 10) and Denver (Jan. 12) here. Following a short trip across the East River to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 13, Brooklyn will return to Barclays to take on Orlando (Jan. 16) and Milwaukee (Jan. 18).
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