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Spencer Dinwiddie’s second act: the same but better

Call him the prodigal son who returns home. Spencer Dinwiddie is once again a fan favorite ... for the right reasons.

Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great Jazz Age writer, once famously declared there are no second acts in American lives. You get your shot and that’s it.

Spencer Dinwiddie might disagree.

After 18 months in Washington, D.C. and Dallas, Texas, Dinwiddie, now 29, returned to Brooklyn in the Kyrie Irving trade. A fan favorite in his first stint, from being signed out of the G League through a career year in 2019-20 then, after a season ending injury the next season was send to the Wizards in August 2021, he is once again a fan favorite.

On arrival, he said all the right things, particularly about how much he missed Brooklyn, a team that took a chance on him after the Pistons and Bulls had given up on him.

“Obviously there’s a certain level of pride there would be to bring a championship to Brooklyn over any other organization in the league,” said Dinwiddie in his introductory press conference following the trade. “It’d still be more prideful doing it here, just because in a lot of ways it made my career. So, proud to be back, happy to be back and always appreciative.”

Now, after 13 games back in the borough, Dinwiddie is doing well, averaging 18.3 points, 7.6 assists and better than a steal per game. His shooting numbers — splits of 43/30/83 — could use some improvement, but along with Mikal Bridges, he’s been a big part of the Nets post-deadline resurgence, as Brian Lewis writes Tuesday.

Jacque Vaughn knows both Spencers, the one who the Nets found in the G League and the one making nearly $20 million as a veteran floor general.

“I’ve seen Spencer at the age of 22, 23; now seeing him at the age of 29, 30. And the maturation is to another level, and you have to give him credit for that. And that’s just experience,” said Vaughn who was the Nets lead assistant when the Nets signed Dinwiddie back in 2016.

“It’s part of life: He’s matured and learned more about the NBA, how it exists, the good and bad of different franchises. He’s at a place of realizing what’s really good about Brooklyn, how we appreciate him, his ability to take our team to a different level IQ-wise. He’s managing the game better than I’ve ever seen him before, which I saw him as a younger player so those experiences that he’s going through, playoff experiences really put him in a great space right now.”

Always a clutch player, Dinwiddie is now not just the guy who hoists it up with seconds remaining. He just loves the fourth quarter, as Lewis points out.

Shooting 38.2 percent through the first three quarters for he Nets, Dinwiddie has boosted that to 53.3 percent in the fourth and overtime.

His scoring per 100 possessions has been 18.5, 25.9 and 23.8 in each of the first three quarters for the Nets, but 36.7 in the fourth and a scalding 57.1 in overtime.

“When you look at the way the game is played, you get in the first quarter more plays: It’s teams feeling each other out, like a jab with boxers,” Dinwiddie said. “In the second and third you get more uptempo, a little sloppier, you get the transition buckets, the dunks, some more turnovers.

“Then when it gets in the fourth you get to the matchup basketball, where you pick out the people you want to attack … and matchup basketball is typically where I excel.”

His teammates understand how he operates as time runs down, as Lewis notes.

“He lived in the paint. He’s making great decisions. He did a good job of finding everybody and keeping everybody together, especially when they were making a run,” said Dorian Finney-Smith after the big Denver win.

“I see it how he goes every day; just a true pro, and he wants to win. He does whatever it takes, and he wants everyone to eat,” Mikal Bridges said. “He just wants to win and make sure everybody’s happy out there.”

Dinwiddie also understands how the Nets need Bridges to excel and he’s humble enough to admit it.

“It’s our job that he can get to his spots and get his shots and continue to stack up these 30s as much as he possibly can. We’ve got to feed that, encourage that and then for me the coaches want me to just get in the paint,” said Dinwiddie after the overtime win over Minnesota on Friday night, a game where he scored 29 and Bridges 34.

“I’m trying to win the game. I’m not going out there trying to get 30 or whatever it is. If they blitz me and double-team me, boom, I’m going to pass. If they’re going to single coverage, I might shoot more. But everybody has that mentality of, What do I need to do to win?”

So, Act II for Dinwiddie looks a lot like the first, only better. Hopefully, for Nets fans, there’s a big ending.