Brooklyn’s deep roster is a blessing and a strength, but that doesn’t always make it easy for those on the outside of the rotation. When asked about managing that depth, and dealing with lineups and rotations and rest days, head coach Steve Nash has said that circumstances would arise that could push any scripted plans to the side.
The Nets got the first taste of that on Sunday night, when a knee strain forced Spencer Dinwiddie out of the game against the Charlotte Hornets, with the Nets due for the second half of a back-to-back against the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center on Monday night.
“We knew this type of stuff is going to happen,” said Nash. “Someone’s going to get an injury, whether it’s minor or not. We know we’re in a pandemic. We have to be willing to adapt, and our depth has been a strength. (Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot) was fantastic off the bench, and tomorrow night we’re just going to have to assess the situation, assess bodies and minutes and see how guys come through in the morning and we’ll make decisions about tomorrow night.”
When a shot to the face that required stitches also took forward Jeff Green out of the game, Nash, who had stuck to a 10-man rotation until things were well-in-hand in each of Brooklyn’s first two games, turned to Luwawu-Cabarrot and indeed got a clutch performance.
Luwawu-Cabarrot made all three of his 3-point attempts while playing the entire fourth quarter, shooting 4-of-4 overall. His second 3-pointer came in the middle of the 12-0 run that cut a 16-point Charlotte lead to four, and the third with 40.4 seconds remaining made it a two-point game.
“Mindset is just stay focused, be ready when you catch the ball and you’re open, just shoot it,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Just do the right plays, be ready on defense, communicate, bring all the energy that we need. That was the mindset.”
Luwawu-Cabarrot shot 38.8 percent from 3-point range last season, and that was a big part of turning things around after starting the season on a two-way contract. He role expanded as the year went on, and he put up four 20-point games in the 12 games the Nets played in Orlando over the summer, starting five of them.
With reinforcements back in Brooklyn, minutes are harder to come by.
“I mean, it’s a lot of fun to watch this team,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “I take the role that the coaches give me. We have this group that is the ‘stay ready group.’ I’ve been working with them. We’ve been working together. So, you know, opportunities come and go, and you know, you’ve got to stay ready at any point. Of course, it was frustrating to be on the side knowing that I could help the team, but this is life, this is basketball, and I’ve got to just live with it.”
The other personnel question for Monday night, which maybe has a secondary feel now after Dinwiddie’s knee issue, is how the Nets would handle Kevin Durant on his first back-to-back — also part of a three-games-in-four-nights set — in his return after missing all of last season.
“I definitely want to be able to play back-to-backs, get through 'em healthy and play my normal minutes, so we'll see,” said Durant. “We will see how things go and we'll talk about it tomorrow.”
INJURY REPORT UPDATE
The Nets announced on Monday that Spencer Dinwiddie has been diagnosed with a partially torn ACL in his right knee and will undergo surgery. In addition, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have both been listed as out for Monday night's game against Memphis due to rest and injury recovery
JA HITS THE BOARDS
Jarrett Allen had 14 rebounds against the Hornets in 25 minutes on Sunday night after grabbing 11 boards in Boston on Friday. Allen has been crashing the offensive boards hard, with four on Sunday and five on Friday, creating extra opportunity for himself and the Nets.
“I think Jarrett was incredible tonight,” said Kevin Durant. “And you can tell it brought the best out of him. And he's just getting better and better each and every day.”
“Jarrett’s just so active,” said Steve Nash. “Live body, both ends of the floor. Picks, rolls hard, causes problems on his rolls and also defensively. He’s just so active. Quick feet. Second efforts around the rim. I just thought he was doing a great job, so we rode him. That’s two good games for him, sorry, three good games for him in the season. Proud of the way he’s played.”
Allen has been coming off the bench so far after starting most of his first three seasons in the league. But he was beginning the 2020-21 season under a new coach for the first time.
“Making an impression was definitely important,” said Allen. “I think he still had a good idea of how I played in the bubble because I know coach watches tons of film. More than any of us could imagine so he had a good idea. But him finally being able to see me in person, seeing me play, I wanted to make that impact on him early.”
DURANT ON THE DEFENSE
After playing to a sub-100 defensive rating through their first two games, the Nets faltered a bit against Charlotte. It wasn’t all bad news; the Nets limited the Hornets to 29.4 percent 3-point shooting, and 19 of Charlotte’s points came in transition, with Brooklyn’s 19 turnovers a factor there.
But the Hornets also piled up 64 points in the paint on 53 shots, 30 more attempts than the Nets got in the paint.
“We were a little bit too loose on switches, when we were point switching and they were slipping out,” said Kevin Durant. “(Charlotte coach James) Borrego made some great quick hits over the top, ducking passes when we were slipping and the quick slips on the screen and rolls, they were getting into space. So we have to be ready for that, especially when we use our switching defenses, teams are going to start to slip out of those screens, play with a little bit more pace, and we was behind on a few plays — especially on close outs and now were fouling and now guys can, you know, drive and kick. So, I think we have to be just a little bit more solid on some of our actions and be a little bit more physical and be communicative.”
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES
Memphis, led by last season’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, has dropped its first two games, to San Antonio and Atlanta. Morant is off to a big start, with 36.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. But the Grizzlies are getting lit up on the other end so far, with a 118.2 defensive rating that is 28th in the league in this first week of action.