The other night, before the first Miami game at Barclays Center, Alex Schiffer of The Athletic tweeted out what might be, could be a positive sign for all the fans who are hoping for a Spencer Dinwiddie return this season...
Spencer Dinwiddie shooting 3s. pic.twitter.com/0Bm7WkuSIE— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) January 23, 2021
The same month he underwent surgery for a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee, there he was, shooting three’s, dribbling the ball. That same day, Dinwiddie posted his own video of him rehabbing...
Note the title “Post DPE,” a reference to the NBA decision to grant the Nets a Disabled Player Exception for Dinwiddie the day before. The DPE means that the league medical office believes it’s likely Dinwiddie won’t return to action this season. It doesn’t mean Dinwiddie can’t return. And if he does return, it doesn’t mean the Nets would have to hand the DPE back. They have $5.7 million to play with in trades, free agency, even waiver claims.
And so, the 27-year-old who torn the ACL (and more) in his left knee as a junior at Colorado isn’t giving up. He even posted a image of him lifting weights days after he underwent the knife at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Still, December 27, 2020 was a nightmare for both Nets fans and basketball fans in general. In a face-off between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets, Spencer Dinwiddie suffered the dreaded ACL injury after landing awkwardly on his right leg. No one knew how serious the injury was when it first happened, but after watching the replays it was hard to watch the play go down. Dinwiddie didn’t return to the game and later the NBA community was informed that it was in fact the last thing anybody wanted to hear.
The timeframe of the injury took place was before the James Harden trade went down. Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and Rodions Kurucs were all still on the team. Everyone knew without Dinwiddie, the Nets hopes of winning a championship this year were less than they were the moment before he got hurt. There was no doubt that Spencer Dinwiddie had a big role to play for the Nets. Last year he averaged a career-high 20.6 points, a career-high 6.8 assists, and a career-high 3.5 rebounds. In one 22-game stretch, he averaged 25.7 points, 7.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds. In one back-to-back, he dropped 41 on the Spurs, then 39 on the Hawks.
So, he was a big contributor to the Nets making the playoffs and hit arguably the biggest shot in the biggest win of the season, the March 10 win over the Lakers in his native L.A.
Well, the good news is that Spencer Dinwiddie underwent successful surgery the same week of the tragedy ... and he wasn’t traded away in the James Harden deal. The bad news, of course, is and that he won’t be suiting up to play in a while. So let’s say that Dinwiddie’s optimism is warranted. Considering where the team is at right now, how would he operate in this newly constructed Nets squad will operate?
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant made their debut playing together in December, Irving, Durant and Harden this month. Still, there’s gotta be a role for him, IF, IF he can come back. After all, the Nets with him as a starter dominated the Warriors and Celtics those first two games.
Last season Dinwiddie averaged 31.2 minutes, starting 49 of the 64 games he played. This season in the two games before the injury, he was playing 24.5 minutes while starting. With Harden now in the lineup, there’s no doubt that if and when he returns, he’ll be getting fewer minutes or just about the same minutes he was getting before he went down.
Moreover, his role will have changed. It’s doubtful he’ll be starting. The role he’d fill would be as another facilitator who can create his own shot and aggressively attack on the break, something we all knew he could do after watching him play five seasons in Brooklyn.
Instead of starting, we’d likely see him becoming the sixth man, the role we thought Caris LeVert would play before he was traded. Joe Harris could very well come off the bench with him in Steve Nash’s ever-changing lineups. The two already have chemistry.
Because Dinwiddie would be playing alongside Harden, Irving, or Durant, it’s safe to say that he’d be playing off the ball more than he ever did before. This means that he’d have to get used to taking more catch-and-shoot threes and finding his rhythm this way.
Last season, he attempted more threes than he’d ever taken in his career. He attempted about six a game, and shot just 31 percent from behind the arc. (He was hitting at an even lower rate in his three games this season, less than 29 percent.) But his catch-and-shoot 3-point numbers the last three seasons were 36.8 percent, 36.8 percent and 37.3 percent. Not shabby for the role he’d be playing next to the “Big Three.”
The role switch would no doubt be difficult in that he’s never been asked to do this before, but keep in mind that it’s not an impossible task. We’ve seen Dinwiddie adapt to almost every situation this Nets team dealt him through the years and believe or not, this task is actually asking him to do less. In other words, he should be fine.
Spencer Dinwiddie will be watching on as this Nets team looks to shock the world as he slowly heals.
And while he may be optimistic, he’s facing long odds. Even if he’s cleared, at what level would he be able to play? How many minutes? And his return wouldn’t just be dependent on the medical aspect. The Nets are notoriously conservative when it comes to returning players to the court. Sean Marks said as much last week, two days before he was granted the DPE.
“I’ll never rule Spencer out of anything, because there are very few guys who have shown the resilience he has to come back from any injury. He loves to prove people wrong, and has a chip on his shoulder,” Marks said in talking to WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Craig Carton. “But, an ACL tear is a serious injury and he has a lot at stake, so while I won’t rule him out, it’s going to be very difficult. There are a lot of things at stake here, but we want what is best for Spencer long-term.”
By “long term,” of course, Marks means the other aspect of the team and player’s decision-making: the status of Dinwiddie’s contract. He has a player option for next season when he’s scheduled to make $12.3 million. If he were healthy, it would be a no-brainer for him to opt out and see what the market looks like. Now after his injury? Who knows. Maybe he’d like to talk with the Nets about an extension. The two sides can start talking at the end of next week ... although that seems unlikely. Dinwiddie is a risk-taker.
Dinwiddie has been one of Brooklyn’s best troopers through the years and fans have to be happy he wasn’t among those traded amidst all this chaos. Best bet is just to wait and watch ... and read his posts on Instagram.