Brooklyn Nets' Theo Pinson Delivers Big Boost in Win Over Knicks
Rookie two-way player scores 19 points and sparks comeback
Kenny Atkinson keeps digging deeper into the Brooklyn Nets' roster, and once again on Friday night, he was not let down.
The Nets were without sparkplug reserve point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the team's second-leading scorer, and floundering early in the second quarter. Atkinson gave an opportunity to rookie two-way player Theo Pinson, who delivered a performance that was key to the Nets turning things around and pulling away to a 109-99 win over the New York Knicks.
"Didn't originally have him in the rotation," said Atkinson. "Thought we were struggling and threw him in there and we didn't want to take him out. Heck of a job. It's a credit to our G League, the Long Island Nets, the job they've done there, Will Weaver, the head coach and all the assistants. He's a part of our program, did a heck of a job and didn't skip a beat, knew everything we were doing tactically. Just a really smooth transition."
It was just Pinson's ninth appearance in an NBA game, and by far the most impressive. He finished up with 19 points and eight rebounds, shooting 5-for-11 overall and 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
Pinson's insertion in the game coincided roughly with the Nets turning things around defensively as well. Eighteen minutes into the game, the Knicks had 53 points and were shooting 65.5 percent and 50 percent from 3-point range. They scored 46 points while shooting 30.3 percent and 17.3 percent from 3-point range over the final 30 minutes.
"He's got all the tools," said Atkinson. "He's 6-foot-6, he's long, moves his feet really well and he's got great defensive instincts. I think that was the thinking when we took him, that he could be a versatile defender. I thought he was excellent defensively. He has great instincts. He's got a great nose for the ball."
After entering the game early in the second quarter, Pinson scored 13 points by halftime. He made his first three 3-point attempts in a span of three minutes, then added two free throws and a rebound basket after chasing down his own miss as the Nets erased an 11-point deficit in just under five minutes.
Pinson has been one of the top players for the Long Island Nets G League squad that leads the Eastern Conference with an 18-10 record, averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 44.4 percent and 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
While the Nets liked Pinson's all-around game and passing ability coming out of North Carolina, he had not excelled on deep shooting in college. But with Long Island he averages 7.7 3-point attempts per game.
“Confidence," said Pinson. "Confidence and I know I can shoot the ball and they encourage you to shoot here. It was something that I’ve been working all summer and every single day with (assistant coach) Shaun Fein, Will Weaver and all those guys who have helped me to this point. I can’t thank those two enough as far as keeping us ready. We run the same stuff up there (Long Island) so I’m not behind when I come here and it’s helped me out tremendously."
A four-year player at North Carolina who struggled with injuries during parts of his college career, Pinson still helped the Tar Heels to a national championship in 2017. But the 6-foot-6 swingman went undrafted in June. The Nets reached out to him quickly on draft night and he participated in NBA Summer League and training camp with the team.
Friday night's performance was a night he's been waiting for.
"Give all the glory to God," said Pinson. "Can't even explain it. I don't think it's hit me yet. I'm just glad we won. That was my biggest thing. I know I had a good first half. I was still calm. I just wanted to win the game. We're on a roll and I wanted to contribute to it."
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