Dinwiddie gives Pistons early inkling he’ll be worth the wait

The Pistons are already feeling like Spencer Dinwiddie will be worth their wait.
Jeff Gross (Getty Images Sport)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

ORLANDO – “Sorry that I’m not looking at you,” Spencer Dinwiddie said as he thoughtfully answered questions about the state of his left knee’s rehabilitation and his NBA future. “But I’m paying attention.”

It was just that fellow point guard Peyton Siva was engaged in a spirited shooting drill with Pistons assistant coach Charles Klask 20 feet from where he sat and Dinwiddie was doing what all good point guards must: multitasking, observing, processing.

Time will tell if Dinwiddie, at 6-foot-6, possesses the rare talent required of a player who occupies one of the 30 starting point guard positions in the NBA. But he’s struck all who’ve crossed his path so far in his week as a Piston as articulate, self-aware and confident.

When Dinwiddie said last week, after the Pistons capitalized on the fact his knee injury facilitated his slide to their spot at 38 in the second round, that he saw himself as a “pure one” – a point guard all the way – understand that it’s something he’s been doing since … forever.

He was always a point guard. He just wasn’t always a tall point guard.

“I always had the ball in my hands,” he said. “Depending on the team, you have different needs. But I started high school at 5-7, 117 (pounds). I grew 3 inches every year of my high school career. I went from 5-7 to 5-10 to 6-1 to 6-4, so I was really small. So that’s what I used to do. I was used to playing the pick and roll. I was 6-4, about 155 at the end of high school and averaged like 11, 12 points and nine assists a game.”

At Colorado, they needed him to score a little more. Dinwiddie averaged 15 points and four assists over his last two seasons as a sophomore and junior, which ended in mid-January when he suffered his knee injury in a Pac-12 game at Washington.

“If they had wanted me to get like eight, nine assists and score seven, eight points, that’s what I would have done. At the end of the day, it’s about winning.”

He grew up in Los Angeles, the Lakers his team and Kobe Bryant his favorite player.

“I was really small but my favorite player was Kobe. It’s kind of a disconnect, but I really loved Kobe’s competitiveness and the way he goes hard and tries to win and wants to win everything. I think he’s an evil genius in that way. Even though our games don’t match, that’s the one I admired growing up.”

He has studied the taller point guards – Shaun Livington and Penny Hardway, mostly.

“It’s all about using the gifts that I have. I’m going to be quick enough to stay in front of some and the ones that are quicker than me it’s about using my length and contesting shots and making it hard on them. When they have to guard me, it’s going to be about if I can’t outquick them, use my size. It’s a chess game. Nobody’s going to be able to do every single thing better than everybody. Not even LeBron does everything better than everybody else. It’s all about using your advantages.”

He’s in Orlando even though he isn’t yet able to play, hoping to learn by osmosis and ease his acclimation period whenever medical clearance is given. After a few blue days upon first being injured, Dinwiddie marshaled his energy into rehabilitation with an eye toward being ready for the start of his first NBA training camp.

Stan Van Gundy has all but ruled that out, stating last week he had no expectations for Dinwiddie to contribute in 2014-15 and instructing Dinwiddie to pass on questions about his timetable for a return.

“I can’t talk timetables and I don’t think I can talk percentages,” he grinned. “But if you go back and look at my Instagram and Twitter, I think you’ll know when I want to play.”

The cautious approach the Pistons are taking, however, isn’t lost on Dinwiddie for what it says about their confidence in his long-term future.

“For them to have faith in me and treat me as an investment and want me to be cautious and take my time, that’s showing a lot of love, so I appreciate that. At the same time, I’m a competitor. Of course I want to play, but it’s on me to listen to the coaching staff and the trainer to tell me what’s best.”

Once Dinwiddie decided to enter the 2014 draft, regardless of the injury, he sought the best rehab specialist he could find. That led him to Houston-based Russell Payne, credited for getting Adrian Peterson back to start the 2013 NFL season despite a more serious knee injury suffered in December 2012.

“If Peterson’s Secretariat,” Dinwiddie said Payne told him, “you’re Seabiscuit.”

Arnie Kander, who’ll oversee the last phase of Dinwiddie’s rehabilitation, told Dinwiddie he has a “biological” knee – ideal anatomical alignment and optimal healing capacity. He’s studied Dinwiddie’s stride pattern and became further convinced Dinwiddie’s recovery, once the rehab process plays out, will be complete.

“He also explained how he felt I could get more explosive because I have a little bit of a back bend he can clean up and some tightness in my hip flexors and some really normal stuff – tightness in my calves – and things that can make me more explosive. That was great hearing that. He had no qualms about my knee – thought it was going to be great and I was going to be better than I was and more explosive, which was pretty much the only knock I had. That was really inspiring. I’m really excited to continue working with him.”

Dinwiddie, quick to smile and an engaging conversationalist, has quickly hit it off with the Summer League Pistons at practices who will be his teammates – Siva, Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Kyle Singler. He can see a logical fit for him given his size and versatility.

“There are only several of us who are big like this – you’ve got Michael Carter-Williams, Shaun Livingtston, I guess Tony Wroten. Only several of us who are 6-5 plus who are point guards, so I feel special in that sense. And on this roster, I’ve noticed (point guards) are smaller guys. But I haven’t really played with any of them yet, so I don’t really know any of their games. But I do think I bring something a little bit different and I’m also really excited to play with the frontcourt.

“People call Drummond the best young big guy in the league and obviously (Greg) Monroe is really skilled and Josh Smith does what he does and presents matchup problems and plays the four. I’m excited to work with these guys and KCP is a young shooting guard who hit his stride later in the season and you’ve got a solid player in Singler at the three and we can see where it goes.

“So I just want to compete and win.”

He might have to wait to do both of those things, but the Pistons are already confident Spencer Dinwiddie will be worth their wait.