Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie Continues to Step Up

Spencer Dinwiddie has been here before. It’s kind of how we got to know him two years ago, when injuries created a Nets void and a Dinwiddie opportunity at point guard. With Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell out, Dinwiddie stepped into the starting point guard role and started 58 games, showing a thirst for big moments.

His play that season, a year out of being signed out of the G League, made him part of a young Brooklyn core to build around. Last season he was the Nets’ second-leading scorer, and second among all players in the league in point and assists of the bench behind Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams.

With Kyrie Irving sidelined over the last two weeks, Dinwiddie is back in Brooklyn’s starting lineup and coming up bigger and bigger as the games roll along.

“The role is completely different so obviously, there is a change there,” said Dinwiddie of starting as opposed to coming off the bench. “My approach to the game is very similar either way. It’s whatever the team needs to win and then the role kind of dictates what that is. Sometimes it will be defense, sometimes it will be offense. Today, they wanted me to be really aggressive guarding Kemba (Walker) trying to deny him the ball and so that actually spurred a couple of the first buckets. It wasn’t even me having a particular offensive game plan or something like that.”

In Friday’s matinee against the Boston Celtics, he was dominant, controlling the game from start to finish with 32 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in his second straight double-double. Dinwiddie shot 10-for-19 overall and 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

“Spencer, he can do that whenever he wants to,” said Nets center Jarrett Allen. “He’s super-talented, he’s super-skilled, he’s super-athletic. I think this could be a normal night for him.”

Dinwiddie has started Brooklyn’s last nine games, and the Nets have won six of their last eight. But his run of big-time performances stretches beyond that, back to the first game of Brooklyn’s five-game West Coast road trip.

He hit the road coming off some uneven play, single-digit scoring games in two of Brooklyn’s previous three games. Then he lit up Portland for 34 points in a 119-115 win over the Blazers. Three games later, Dinwiddie was in the starting lineup in Denver with Irving out with a shoulder impingement. The Nets lost that night, but two nights later Dinwiddie scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to fuel a 117-11 win in Chicago.

Over Brooklyn’s last 12 games, Dinwiddie is averaging 23.8 points and 6.6 assists, picking up an Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award along the way. He’s followed that up with 23 points and a game-winner in Cleveland, and then Friday’s gem. Over his last three games, Dinwiddie’s averaging 10.3 assists.

“More confident,” said Kenny Atkinson in comparing Dinwiddie to last season. “I’ve always felt like that was Spence. He, kind of in the past he didn’t know how good he was. You’d be surprised, as talented as he is, I think his confidence is just growing. In this kind of scenario he’s in right now, running the team, I think that’s giving him more confidence, and when Kyrie comes back I think that’s gonna give us a team with more depth, a more powerful team. But listen, he’s playing as good as anybody in the NBA right now in my humble opinion.”

While Irving is out again when the Nets play Sunday against Miami, he has returned to on-court work, so his return seems to be getting closer. So what’s next?

“We’re just taking it game by game right now,” said Dinwiddie. “Me and him haven’t talked about playing together personally since the summer. Obviously there was a lot of reports about that. When he comes back we’ll talk about that stuff. As great as a talent as he is we need to figure out how to work around what he needs to do versus the other way around.”