Nets Notes: Brooklyn Breaks Out Some New-Look Lineups

After Dinwiddie injury, Nets start TLC, stagger Durant and Irving

While Wednesday was Brooklyn’s second game without the injured Spencer Dinwiddie, it was the first with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant playing without Dinwiddie, offering a better sample of what Brooklyn’s regular lineups and rotations might look like going forward than Monday’s game against Memphis in which Irving and Durant were rested.

“It’s a big adjustment,” said Joe Harris after Thursday’s practice. “Obviously, you lose a player like Spencer and it’s going to take some time for everyone to get used to it. Even the first unit that we had last night, it’s the first time that group of five had ever played together, even in practice, whatever it might have been. And then the same thing that Kevin mentioned with some of those guys in the second unit. It’s one of those things where we don’t really have the luxury of being able to figure it out through practice, and we’re going to have to learn over the course of the season.”

That first unit included Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot stepping in for Dinwiddie. Luwawu-Cabarrot came off the bench for a strong fourth quarter in Charlotte after Dinwiddie was injured on Sunday, then started Monday’s game and scored 21 points.

Head coach Steve Nash pointed to Luwawu-Cabarrot’s defensive fit, and while Dinwiddie’s ball-handling and playmaking were valuable, that wasn’t the priority in slotting in somebody with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup.

“I think the way our team is built is not it's not necessarily his production that we have to replace; it's his versatility,” said Nash of Dinwiddie. “The way we play, he can guard multiple positions, he's a terrific athlete, which gives you your team and other elements. You know he's a point guard, as much as anyone on our team in a sense, Ky and Caris are playmakers and point guards, but Spencer, he still can balance the floor and manage a team and handle the ball and get us into sets.

“There's so many attributes to Spencer that are important and valuable to our team outside of points, rebounds, assists, so it is a big loss because of his versatility, skillset, size, speed defensive ability. So we’ll miss him dearly. But I think we're gonna see a lot of different lineups this year, we're gonna see a lot of different combinations, so I don't think it's something that we that we can continually overanalyze; we’re just going to have to roll with what we think is the best on that night or in that stretch of the season, and continue to grow.”

Aside from the new starting lineup, the Nets on Wednesday night started to stagger minutes a little bit for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who had essentially been moving in and out of games in tandem through Brooklyn’s first three games of the season.

“I hope it makes us dangerous, but I just think it’s important,” said Nash. “It gives us the best chance to sustain good basketball throughout the game and have balance in our lineups. I would have thought we would have gotten there anyways, even if Spencer was healthy. Now I think it’s even more important to get there a little quicker and sort of feel out how we can stagger minutes and stagger ballhandlers and playmakers. It was good last night. I think it helped us, and it was good to see it a little bit and see how we can continue to develop the rotations.”

Was the presence of Irving and Durant on the court a factor in opening things up for the second-unit players they were sharing the court with? Landry Shamet and Taurean Prince broke out with perfect shooting nights, combining for 26 points, while the Nets bench totaled 56 points.

“It’s only going to help us,” said Durant, “especially with Spence going down and him being another ballhandler for us and somebody we’re gonna miss a lot handling that rock, especially when it’s time for me and Kyrie to score, so having a couple ballhandlers out there, one with Caris (LeVert). I played with Caris for the first time it felt like in that second unit, and it’s gonna be good for us going forward when we get a few ballhandlers out there to help each unit. He might stagger Kyrie first, take him out first next game, who knows? But we’ve gotta be prepared for it.”

Nash had said it could be “redundant” to play sixth man LeVert significant minutes with both Durant and Irving, though closing games with the trio on the court together was a possibility. LeVert had eight assists against Atlanta on Wednesday after dishing 11 dimes against Memphis on Monday.

“I just think that it’s a better usage of each of them to spread them out a little bit, but at the end of the game, all bets are off,” said Nash. “Who’s going well, who’s confident and what lineups are working well together are all to be considered. I think everything’s in play, but I definitely think we want to stagger their minutes as much as possible over the course of 48 minutes so that we do have plenty of playmaking on the floor at all times and it’s not overloaded where we’re desperate for playmaking in other scenarios.”

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