Dinwiddie rarin' to go after being cleared to play in preseason finale

Stan Van Gundy frequently refers to his charge in putting together the pieces of the puzzle with the Pistons. Take one piece out – Jodie Meeks – and it has a ripple effect on the whole. Assuming the Pistons get Kentavious Caldwell-Pope back in time for next week’s season opener, how does Van Gundy fill the minutes when KCP sits?

“It all depends,” he said Wednesday. “What we’ve got to do is be flexible enough. A lot of it depends on matchups.”

That could mean Cartier Martin one night. It could mean more of Josh Smith at small forward another, freeing Kyle Singler or Caron Butler for minutes in the backcourt.

There’s also one other possibility now: Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie went through his third straight practice on Wednesday and is cleared to play in Thursday’s preseason finale. And he will. The medical team told Van Gundy to limit him to 18 to 20 minutes.

“So I’ll try to keep him below 30,” Van Gundy grinned.

Just not as widely as Dinwiddie.

“It’s just exciting to be back,” he said. “My dad’s going to come out (from their Los Angeles-area home base) and be able to see my first game back. It’s going to be a really special night.”

The final hurdle Dinwiddie needed to clear was holding up for multiple days and he passed. He’s tired, he said, because who wouldn’t be after Van Gundy’s three-hour-plus practices, but there’s no issues related to the knee that required ACL reconstruction only last January.

He’d have rust to knock off even if Dinwiddie were preparing for his senior season at Colorado instead of his NBA rookie year, but it’s being shed faster than even he might have anticipated.

“I think it’s coming back very well. CB (Caron Butler) made a comment, he said he was surprised. I didn’t have as much rust as he thought I was going to have. I think that’s a good sign that I’m playing well and being fluid out there.”

Van Gundy was struck by Dinwiddie’s confidence from their initial meetings, long before he ever saw him play live. Part of the reason Dinwiddie knows he’s back? What he’s experienced so far in training camp hasn’t knocked his confidence back in the least.

“I think that’s probably the most reassuring thing,” he said. “The only thing I’ve got to learn to do is probably keep my mouth shut a little more when talking to the vets on the court. Off the court, it’s all respect. You treat them like older brothers and uncles, but on the court – you get into the heat of the moment, you start popping off at the mouth and they don’t appreciate that too much. That’s something I’ve got to get in check a little bit.”

Van Gundy split first-team repetitions between Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin in Wednesday’s practice with Dinwiddie going the entire way against them running the second unit. Van Gundy said he plans to play both Jennings and Augustin against Philadelphia on Thursday, so that could mean that at least some of Dinwiddie’s minutes will come at shooting guard.

Another puzzle piece to consider.