In a back-and-forth game at Nassau Coliseum Thursday night, the Long Island Nets survived the Raptors 905 in a high scoring contest that had a trio of young Nets finish with 20-point games. Final score: Long Island 133, the 905 124.
Perhaps the biggest news of the night, though, was that Dariq Whitehead, recovering from right foot surgery, had his best game of the G League season, putting up 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, grabbing six rebounds while playing 23 minutes, all season highs.
Whitehead, at 19 the second youngest player on an NBA roster, told NetsDaily he was pleased with his performance.
“I feel like I played well,” said the 6’7”, 220-pound wing. “This is a small stepping stone of what I can be. This game my minutes were increased and I was able to get up and down the floor well, and my coaches were proud of that. I’m going to use that as a building block so I can be healthy in the long run.”
It may not have been just his coaches he wanted to impress. Sean Marks and a contingent of Brooklyn basketball operations types were also on hand in Uniondale. Indeed, Whitehead looked more explosive than he has had and even tried an poster dunk but didn’t quite make it.
Whitehead said everyone will have to be patient, particularly in watching for a return of his athleticism which not surprisingly has been affected by both his June 2023 surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery In New York as well as a previous foot surgery 10 months earlier just before his freshman year at Duke.
“All the real basketball fans knew it would take time. When you break a foot and have surgery not once but twice in a span of a couple of months, its not easy to get your athleticism back,” said an optimistic Whitehead.
“I feel like I’m getting over that hump of landing. As I develop, I get more and more comfortable landing on that foot and embracing contact. It also gives you a glimpse on what’s to come, especially when I am able to get downhill and not think twice about anything. It’s slowly coming together.”
Whitehead also discussed he has been troubled by minor shin splints during his recovery.
“In terms of my recovery process, I feel like I’m there. I just got to get over these shin splints in my left leg, which is the only thing right that is not letting me jump the way I want to jump,” he said. When I get over this, I’ll be 100% back.”
Whitehead didn’t provide a specific timeframe for getting to 100% but in the meantime, he said, it’s all about Long Island which is now 6-4 on the season.
“Right now, I’m making sure that I’m 100% invested in Long Island. I feel like it is best for me so I can get myself ready. The guys over here have done a tremendous job in helping me get to where I want to go, so I feel like I owe it to them to always give my best and go through this process the best way I can,” he told NetsDaily.
Meanwhile Nets brass, who always planned for a long, conservative recovery period, tell ND that things “are going well.”
It was a good night not just for Whitehead, the 22nd pick in the Draft, but for Noah Clowney, taken one spot ahead of him, Jalen Wilson, who went at No. 51, and Keon Johnson, the 6’4” combo guard Marks and co. signed to a two-way deal.
KJ tallied a season-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists and one block in 29 minutes. Clowney posted 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals in 29 minutes while Wilson, who had put up 58 points in the two previous games, finished with 18 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and six assists. Point guard Kennedy Chandler also tallied 20 points, adding four rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block in 32 minutes.
Overall, seven Nets finished in double figures. Long Island native Patrick Gardner added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 17 minutes. Brooklyn two-way guard Armoni Brooks notched 12 points, seven rebounds and one assist in 26 minutes.
The Nets got off to a slow start in the first quarter as the 905 shot 61.9% from the field. Raptors 905 closed the period ahead by 13, 35-22. The Nets found their stride in the second as they outscored Raptors 905 43-25 on 64.0% shooting from the field. Long Island took the lead and went into halftime ahead by five, 65-60.
Long Island maintained its effort in the third quarter, shooting 50.0% from the field in addition to outrebounding Raptors 905, 14-8. The Nets went into the final quarter ahead by three, 96-93. Long Island’s offense continued to cruise in the fourth, shooting 64.7% from the field.
Raptors 905 guard Jaysean Paige recorded a game-high 36 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes. Raptors 905 center Kevin Obanor notched a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds in addition to two assists and two steals in 37 minutes. Toronto assignee Gradey Dick, the 13th pick in the 2023 Draft and Wilson’s teammate at Kansas, posted 14 points, three rebounds, five assists in 38 minutes.
Long Island will travel to face the Westchester Knicks on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.