With Wilson Chandler Due Back, Iman Shumpert is Out in Brooklyn Nets Moves

With the return of Wilson Chandler due on Sunday, the pieces are moving for the Brooklyn Nets. On Thursday, the team waived guard Iman Shumpert, who had been added a month ago with a roster spot available while Chandler was on the suspended list. With that 25-game suspension ending with Saturday night’s game in Toronto, the Nets had to open up a space to activate Chandler and bring the roster back down to 15.

“I really enjoyed being around him,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson. “Listen, as far as that goes, you know me, I would’ve loved to keep everybody. I think we understand the circumstances. Everybody understands the circumstances. I know this: That guy belongs in the league. He proved that in the time he was with us. But circumstances just dictated with Wilson coming back. It’s just how it is.”

The Nets added Shumpert in the wake of injuries to Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert that left them short on guards. He arrived at a tough moment, with the Nets 4-7 and missing their starting backcourt. Beginning with a win in Chicago in Shumpert’s Nets debut on Nov. 16, Brooklyn has gone 9-4. Shumpert brought a defensive edge and backcourt depth to Brooklyn’s second unit during that stretch.

“Shump was great from the moment that he got here,” said Joe Harris. “Easy transition, it’s not an easy thing to come into an NBA locker room and sort of assimilate yourself with everybody. But he was able to do that right from the get-go. He’s a pretty loud personality, but it’s also in a good way where people just enjoy him being around. He brought great energy and he’ll definitely be missed.”

In 13 games, Shumpert played 18.5 minutes per game and averaged 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 32.8 percent. Brooklyn’s defensive rating as a team — 111.0 and 25th in the league through the first 11 games — was 108.0 since Shumpert’s arrival, 14th in the league during that stretch.

“I think defense is a collective deal,” said Atkinson. “So I feel good we’ve been playing well defensively as a unit. That second unit has been playing well. And it’s a lot of guys. I think DeAndre (Jordan) is a part of that. I think Theo is a part of that. Musa. David Nwaba has been a big part of that. So I think collectively we can continue to play at a high level defensively.”

Atkinson is confident that Chandler, a veteran who, like Shumpert, played for the New York Knicks while Atkinson was an assistant there, will be a factor defensively as well. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, Chandler brings more size, but Atkinson believes in his ability to play across the wing positions.

“I think that defensive presence is huge,” said Atkinson. “I think toughness. He’s a tough dude. That’ll help. And the simplicity of his game offensively. I think that’ll help our spacing, help our younger guys, help Spencer (Dinwiddie). We’ll be an improved team with him back.”

Chandler has averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds over 11 NBA seasons, shooting 34.3 percent from 3-point range and 44.4 percent overall. After seven seasons with Denver — not including the 2015-16 season that he missed due to injury — Chandler split last season between the Sixers and Clippers. He was part of the six-player, four-pick deal that sent Tobias Harris to Philadelphia. Chandler signed with the Nets this summer as a free agent.

“He just comes in and does his job, he’s not one of these guys that are super ball-dominant,” said Harris. “He’s been super-efficient over the course of his NBA career. You can always count on him to make the smaller plays, the glue-guy type plays.”

With Shumpert gone and Irving and LeVert still sidelined, more minutes may open up for Nwaba as well. A 6-foot-5 guard who joined Brooklyn as a free agent this summer, Nwaba carries the same kind of defense-first reputation as Shumpert. But he’s also been efficient and opportunistic on the offensive end as well lately.

After playing regularly in Brooklyn’s first four games, Nwaba’s playing time was sporadic through much of November. He had played just 19 minutes with four DNPs over a two-week stretch before scoring 10 points in a loss in Boston on Nov. 27. After not playing in the rematch with the Celtics two days later, Nwaba has averaged 16.8 minutes per game over Brooklyn’s last five.

In his last six games, dating back to that Thanksgiving Eve game in Boston, Nwaba is averaging 8.8 points while shooting 51.3 percent overall and 46.7 percent from 3-point range.

“I think part of it is opportunity,” said Atkinson. “We’ve just given him more opportunity. It’s nothing he did to be out of the rotation. … Offensively, he’s just been much more confident shooting the ball. He’s not hesitating. We need that floor space. He’s really kind of grasped what we’re trying to do. He’s part of the defensive resurgence with our activity and turning teams over. He’s a part of that, a big part of that.”