You would think that Spencer Dinwiddie would start to feel it.
You would think that after nearly winning Most Improved Player of the Year in a breakout season few if anyone saw coming, there would be some stress, some anxiety about following-up in a contract year.
You would think that, finally, with a solidified NBA standing (but still a fluctuating role) there would be a sense of urgency and desire to strike the basketball lottery this summer.
You would think that there’d be added pressure. You would think … but nope.
“Actually, nah, man,” Dinwiddie responded to NetsDaily, when asked if he felt any of that as he enters the 2018-19 season.
“That’s the crazy part,” he added before looking over to the skyline view out the HSS Training Center windows, seemingly searching for the most accurate articulation of his last four October’s, before continuing.
“I haven’t had a year going into the NBA like the last.”
This is who Dinwiddie is, which we learned about two seasons ago. (After all, he and his 1400 of 1600 SAT score did choose the University of Colorado over Harvard.)
So this time isn’t that different from any of Dinwiddie’s four other NBA seasons, where more often than not, his role – and at times, his place in the league – was in question?
“I mean, it’s like this, bruh. The whole crabs in the barrel, back against the wall thing: I’ve been there my whole career. So now people are like, ‘Oh sh*t, you can get paid.’ I’ve been damn near out the league every year of my career and I can very well either get paid or be out the league this year, you feel what I’m saying?” Dinwiddie added candidly.
“There’s no guarantee that I’m going to make a bunch of money. It sounds good … we sign on the dotted line then it’s like, cool, we could have a different conversation but until then you never know what’s going to happen,” he added.
Since Dinwiddie doesn’t feel pressure, why would he prepare differently? Sure, he’s learned and acquired experience while in the NBA, but the 25-year-old floor general has always put maximum effort in every off-season in anticipation of an opportunity to arise, as it did one season ago.
Dinwiddie doesn’t take much time off in the summer, electing to stay in shape year-round. While he doesn’t feel the added pressure of producing prior to pending free agency, he does feel that he’s always almost on the outs.
Perhaps playing on the edge gives Dinwiddie his.
“My motto is to always put maximum effort toward everything,” he said. “That’s part of why I feel like I’m able to still be here, even with my back against the wall every year of my career, come out swinging and relatively on top. It’s because of that preparation, that dedication, that hard work. That doesn’t change.”
As a result, he doesn’t indulge in specific goals either. He points out that in situations where you set specific goals, such as statistical highs or award candidacy, you’re placing “undue pressure” on a situation that you don’t control.
“If I was (Russell Westbrook), for example,” he elaborated. “And I knew that I was going to get every single possession I ever want, then I could go out and say, ‘I’m going to be the MVP this year.’ Why not? It’s under my control. Barring an injury, as long as I stay healthy, I’m going to have 100 possessions a game and so it’s on me to make the right decision. But that’s not my role.
“But with OKC for example, we can go back to last year. “It didn’t matter how hot Raymond Felton got, he was coming out. It just f**king is what it is,” he said, with a laugh. “Like, ‘Cool, you played your minutes, bet, Russ, come in,’ and (Russ) would get his 100 possessions. That’s the way it works.”
Being a Most Improved Player finalist last year just happened. It wasn’t on Dinwiddie’s mind until he was up there with Victor Oladipo, the subsequent winner, and Clint Capela, at the end.
So what makes that different? The Nets run on a different track. With Brooklyn, there’s a lot more uncertainty: Who starts, who finishes, who gets the high volume of possessions, what’s the rotation?
Brooklyn is in a constant state of flow, of feel, whereas other NBA squads have more of an upfront identity, as is the case with the Thunder, even as Paul George – and previously, Carmelo Anthony – stand beside Westbrook.
As a result, Dinwiddie feels that Most Improved Player, or even Sixth Man of the Year, is out of his control. So, it’s not even a thought.
“When you’re in a situation (like OKC), you can control it, but when game by game it shifts around where everybody’s trying to figure roles out, figure out positioning and (what it’s going to be every night). With all that movement, you won’t be able to focus on the individual aspects of it. And if you do focus on the individual aspects of it, you’re going to be end up in a situation where you’re pressing and getting upset. That takes the focus away from what it needs to be,” he said, providing context.
“If one night I have 20 possessions and get 20 points, and then the next night I have 10 possessions but only eight or 10 points, then I’m thinking, ‘Damn, I want to average 20, now I’ve got to get 30 so I can get my average back to 20, you’re going to be pressing all season. Not only would I have to control my possessions, I’d have to control (Kenny Atkinson’s) rotations, I’d have to control everybody else’s performances, the defense … that’s way too much stuff out of my control that I can’t change.”
But since last year, the level Dinwiddie’s reached – call it stardom if you wish – has helped spark awareness in his non-NBA ventures that continue to grow, like his 82-game sneaker journey, which you can find more detail on here.
The 2014 second round pick has acted on his ideals since before being drafted, and now he’s found the balance, which he insists, isn’t that hard.
“In everything in life there’s always a certain level of collaboration. There’s no way you can do 100% of everything by yourself. It’s much more so about the team that’s around you. You may be a face; you may have the ideas but people have to execute. There’s no way you can execute all your ideas off the court while playing on the court,” he said.
“Like the shoes for example. I didn’t build the shoe. I drew it but I didn’t actually build it and stitch it. I did the initial sketch myself. An industrial designer went over it and put it in a tech pack version. Even down to the 82-shoe idea, I had the idea to do it, but Kick-Kasso had to draw on it,” he continued.
“And some of it is, well, if I am going to be out the league I might as well, sh*t, get these ideas off while I can.”
Now, Dinwiddie is also a father to a son, Elijah, with fiancée Arielle Roberson, a former college basketball star at the University of Colorado, who also runs the Dinwiddie Family Foundation. (She’s also the sister of Andre Roberson from the Thunder, who played at Colorado.)
“Shoutout to him cause he’s the best kid ever created in life,” Dinwiddie said with a smile about Elijah. “For me personally, at the end of the day, I view one of the highest honors as taking care of your family. I always wanted to have a son at some point, I obviously plan to be married, so I’m good. I like being a dad. He’s the dopest baby ever. It’s not even remotely close. It’s not. I’ve seen a lot of kids because my mom owns a pre-school, but, by far, he’s the dopest kid ever. Just happy and smiling all the time. Credit his mom for doing a wonderful job all the time.”
In similar shoes, many might feel pressure. Many in the past have fallen to that pressure. For Dinwiddie, the daily grind is quite simple.
“When I go out and literally step onto the court, I believe I’m the best player on the court and I try to do whatever it takes in that moment to help the Nets win that game,” he said.
“And when I step off, I’m Spencer. I cook dinner and go to sleep.”
No pressure felt. None needed.