Welcome to the Dariq Whitehead update, part two!
As noted in our last update on November 4, Whitehead is a valuable part of the organization. not just because he was one of two Nets draft picks taken late in the first round this June. It’s also but also the potential a healthy Whitehead, the potential he had shown at Montverde and sometimes at Duke, despite foot issues that led to two surgeries in less than a year, He’s the second youngest player in the NBA as well.
Whitehead also told me back then that he was around “75-80%” ready, which was understandable considering his five-month rehab and just getting re-adjusted to his basketball body. Since then, Whitehead has had multiple practices and a few games. Two nights ago, Whitehead, scored 10 points in 21 minutes helping Long Island to a 105-98 victory over the Greensboro Swarm.
“It felt good to get a victory,” Whitehead said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. It was an ugly win but I feel like it was a challenge to see if we could stay the course and that’s exactly what the guys did. We all bought in late in the game and were able to come out with the win.”
When watching Whitehead play, I noticed a number of things new. He looked very comfortable in his body while out on the floor. He had great elevation on his jumpshot, which led to a couple of threes ending up at the bottom of the net, and he drove with explosiveness that was surprising at least to me. He missed some layups, but the fact that he was able to attempt them without holding back on his athleticism is a good indicator of being basketball-ready.
“I feel like I’m closer to where I need to be,” Whitehead said without giving himself a numerical score. “I’m currently getting my legs where they need to be and my explosiveness is getting back as well. When you’re out for six months you sort of lose your bounce a little bit. Now, I’m trying to get my first step back so I can get back to my regular self and hopefully be able to play above the rim soon.”
While playing in Long Island, Whitehead is getting a feel on what he has to do to improve his game to translate it over to Brooklyn.
“I’m learning to get more comfortable with the ball and making the right play. Obviously I’m here with Long Island, but the end goal is to finish the season strong down in Barclays. You have a lot of good guys here in Long Island who can drive and shoot the ball, and in Brooklyn have a lot of special guys there too, so making the right play will always be important for me to do.”
“Since Day 1, they (the Brooklyn Nets players) all have been there for us. They have talked us through their rookie experiences and it has helped us (him, Noah Clowney, and Jalen Wilson) out so far in the season. More so for me the one guy that has really helped me has been Cam Johnson. Since the first day, he has been that big brother that you need in order to be successful in the NBA.”
Long Island plays Friday night — 7:30 p.m. ET — vs. the Maine Celtics. The game will among the first on Tubi, the FOX-owned streaming service who recently inked a deal with NBA on G League rights. It’s also on the G League website.