CC Sabathia may have been making his rookie debut in the Brooklyn Nets’ broadcast booth on Friday night, but the resplendent color commentator was spot-on with his second-quarter analysis that Spencer Dinwiddie should’ve taken the open shot rather than throw an errant pass to Kevin Durant.
Steve Nash thought the same, and Dinwiddie immediately acknowledged his mistake.
The Nets didn’t make many mistakes in their 113-89 blowout victory over the Boston Celtics in their preseason finale at TD Garden. And with the offense humming and Kevin Durant looking explosive, optimism is rightfully quite high.
Caris LeVert coming off the bench has been the big story of late, but it’s Dinwiddie who actually has the more difficult adjustment playing alongside Durant and Kyrie Irving in the starting lineup.
Dinwiddie is used to operating with the ball in his hands. Last season, he established career-highs in points (20.6), shots (16) and free-throw attempts (seven) per game. The 27-year-old guard is at his best when driving downhill and creating for himself and his teammates.
But with high-usage, max-superstars Durant and Irving on the court, Dinwiddie isn’t going to have as many opportunities. He also isn’t a floor-spacer like Joe Harris, having made just 31.8 percent of his 3-point attempts during his career. It’s going to take time for Dinwiddie to find his way, balancing his aggressiveness — which makes him an elite member of the supporting cast — with wanting to be unselfish. His turnover was a direct result of that difficult balancing act.
(To that end, Bruce Brown’s absence in the rotation — when they got him I thought he might even start — has been a bit surprising. He’s not a sharpshooter either, but he does provide quality perimeter defense. Another wing defender could be on Brooklyn’s radar later on, even if its breathtaking offense can overcome defensive deficiencies in the regular season).
LeVert, on the other hand, doesn’t have to concern himself with that adjustment – at least early in games – as the primary ballhandler with the second unit. After playing a starring role in the bubble; getting a significant raise with his contract extension kicking in at the start of 2020-21; and dealing with the James Harden saga, it would’ve been understandable if the 26-year-old reacted like Will Barton when asked about the idea of becoming a sixth man.
LeVert, however, has always been a total pro – even with all the injuries he’s had to endure – so it wasn’t a surprise that he seems committed to being Brooklyn’s version of Manu Ginobili.
Dinwiddie’s future with the Nets past this season is uncertain. He has a $12.3 million option for 2021-22, but is expected to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, assuming he has a healthy and productive campaign (losing him for nothing would be highly detrimental). During the offseason, Dinwiddie, who represents himself, had been canvassing the league with an eye on solidifying his future — which could ultimately be elsewhere. Dinwiddie always plays with a chip on his shoulder, and it’s certainly understandable that he would desire a more significant role on another team.
In the meantime, Dinwiddie has immense value to the Nets — especially if Irving goes down with an injury, as he’s been prone to do. The team and its fans have championship aspirations. Dinwiddie is a big part of Brooklyn’s roster, and Nash, Durant and Irving will all have to play a part in making sure he’s able to adjust and find a rhythm. It won’t be easy.