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Spencer Dinwiddie facing daily pressure as Nets rely on him

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Atlanta Hawks vs Brooklyn Nets Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

This is not what either Nets or Spencer Dinwiddie expected. If things had gone as planned, the 26-year-old would have gotten big minutes as Brooklyn’s sixth man, helping Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert with backcourt duties. A candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, perhaps but not the go-to guy.

Things changed, of course, when first LeVert, then Irving went down ... and stayed down, missing 44 games between them. You know the numbers. For the season, he’s up to 23 points and 6.3 assists. Since his two backcourt mates went down, the numbers are even better. As Greg Logan points out...

Dinwiddie has averaged 26.0 points and 7.2 assists while scoring at least 20 points in 18 of those 21 games and 30 seven times, including a career-high 41. Even in the past three losses to the Knicks, Rockets and Timberwolves, Dinwiddie hit his numbers with 26.0 points and 7.3 assists per game.

He’s also averaged 35 minutes a game, up from 28 per game last season.

All-Star numbers, for sure, but his percentages have dropped over the past three games. He’s shooting 34.8 percent overall, 24 percent overall and a tough 63.4 from the line. His turnovers in those three games amount to 4.7 percent.

He blamed himself for the loss in Houston when the Nets went down by 22 then rallied but could get over the finish line. Is his dropoff due to fatigue, to opponents keying on him, pressure?

“I don’t know if he feels the pressure, but sometimes, there is a lot of pressure on him,” center Jarrett Allen told Logan. “He is running the offense. He wants to play to the best of his ability, but having all of that on you, you’re going to make some mistakes.”

He and his teammates dismiss fatigue as an excuse for their drop-off both individually and team-wise. And Kenny Atkinson says Dinwiddie is still playing with confidence.

“He’s a confident, confident player right now,” Atkinson said. “He knows we need him as a primary ball-handler, and he’s playing great basketball.”

As Logan writes, Atkinson thinks Dinwiddie is simply transitioning to the next level as a player and that’s not easy.

“I think it’s a growth level,” Atkinson said. “The great ones do it more consistently, and he’s trying to punch through another kind of level in his development curve, punch through that ceiling to get to the next level. That’s probably the biggest jump and the hardest jump is to do it for long periods consistently. I’m glad he’s aware of that and he’s accepting the challenge.”

LeVert looks like he’ll return very soon, maybe even Thursday vs. the Mavericks in Dallas. That will help, but knowing the Nets, LeVert will not be rushed back. The onus will still be on Dinwiddie for a while. He, of course, happy to have reinforcements, first with LeVert, then with the team’s two acknowledged superstars.

“Caris is supposed to be our second All-Star this year, along with Kyrie. He’ll be a huge boost because he’s supposed to be our second-best player,” Dinwiddie said. “Anytime you’re down — well, not including [Kevin Durant] — but down your two best players, when you get them back it’s a big boost.”