Brooklyn Nets' Atkinson on Russell-Dinwiddie pairing: Expect to See More

BROOKLYN – After Wednesday’s practice at the Nets’ HSS Training Center, Spencer Dinwiddie was asked whether or not he expects to play with D’Angelo Russell more entering the final 23 games of the season.

The guard took a light-hearted approach towards answering arguably the biggest question for the remainder of the season: Can Russell and Dinwiddie see extended minutes together on the court?

“Assuming that his minutes go up, I would certainly hope so, because if not, then that means I ain’t playing,” Dinwiddie said with a laugh.

All jokes aside, it is a situation that Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has to consider when setting his rotations and evaluating the roster.

“I think you’ve noticed we’ve started to do it more,” Atkinson said.  “We started to do it more, get a sample size. I think it’s something similar to Jeremy and D’Angelo in the beginning. I do like that. I do like having two guards that can really handle the ball.”

He added, “Now, you’ve got to look at the other pieces and how they fit. Someone’s got to be out. One of our good wing players has got to be out if they’re going to play. Or we go super small; that’s another way. Figuring that puzzle out is a challenge. But yes, I think we can expect to see more of that.”

Dinwiddie and Russell are Brooklyn’s top two playmakers and scorers. In an ideal situation, both would instantly mesh and become the dynamic duo that Nets fans have anticipated since Russell’s return on Jan. 19. But statistically, the results have been uneven, albeit in a small sample size.

According to Basketball Reference, the pair has averaged 15.4 minutes together on the court. At times, they’ve shown some promising signs in moments against the Lakers or the Sixers. But there were also times, where despite their individual success, the Nets as a whole stagnated due to lack of ball movement, which is seen by the Nets’ decline in pace when both are on the court. The Nets rank sixth in the metric at 101.63, but it dips to 95.3 when Russell and Dinwiddie are on the floor, according to Basketball Reference.

Still, based on the limited time on the floor together, it’s too early to make a full assessment on how effective Dinwiddie and Russell can be in tandem. Dinwiddie thinks the pair can potentially work well.

“I think the beauty of the situation is we both have size, we both have a very versatile skillset, you kind of throw Caris (LeVert) in there as well, in terms of being able to play with and off of each other,” Dinwiddie explained. “There’s no real limitation, it’s not like he’s 5-foot-8 or something, or we’re both 5-foot-8, then we’re going to get posted up, or we both can’t guard or something like that. There’s a lot of flexibility between the three of us.”

In a previous interview with BrooklynNets.com, Russell admitted he was excited to see what he and Dinwiddie could do together on the court.

“Having a guy like him, of his caliber, right next to you. I think the sky is the limit,” he said in January.

Dinwiddie revealed in that some practices, he’s been getting more minutes with Russell, though he insists that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a new lineup ahead. Still, with the Nets stuck in a seven-game slide, Atkinson acknowledged on Tuesday that he was open to changes. On Wednesday, he stated, depending on the matchup, that he was willing to use a smaller lineup during games that would allow Dinwiddie and Russell to be on the court at the same time with Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Jarrett Allen. 

“It’s something we’re looking at. It’s something we have to consider. I’m not going to give you the answer today, but it’s something we have to look at,” he said. “You have to balance what’s good for us offensively, what’s good for us defensively. So there’s a lot that goes into that

“I think it’s who you’re playing, what that other team looks like in front of you. So I think there’s a lot of things that go into it. We’ll see.”