It’s dire to think where the decimated Nets would be if Spencer Dinwiddie hadn’t been so good. But coach Kenny Atkinson is convinced he can be even better.
Dinwiddie has gotten early All-Star buzz after stepping in for injured Kyrie Irving, leading the Nets to a 12-6 mark without their star point guard. And while Atkinson admitted that talk might be premature, he said Dinwiddie is developing the consistency needed to get there.
“Still early. He’s got to do it for an even longer period. That’s the real step up for guys that make the All-Star team: Can they do it?” Atkinson said. “He’s starting to get in that area, where he’s doing it game after game after game. You could argue that’s his biggest leap, that he’s not having the ups and downs that he had in the past.”
Learning to maintain that level is the breakthrough that earned former Net D’Angelo Russell his first All-Star berth last season, and Atkinson is pushing Dinwiddie to do the same.
“That’s a mentality and that’s years in the league and confidence,” Atkinson said. “I’m not sure how many games Spencer’s had in a row, but he’s starting to enter into that conversation, the guys that can do it.”
It’s 22 straight games of at least 13 points, for those counting at home. And Dinwiddie has poured in 26.1 points and 7.2 assists since stepping into the lineup for Irving. How is he going to get much better?
“As much as he gets to the rim, I’d love for his finishing to be even better. He can get better at it. He’s certainly getting a lot of opportunities,” Atkinson said. “Then get the 3-point shooting from 32 to 36 [percent]. If he wants to take that step we all think he’s capable of taking, those are the areas.”
Dinwiddie is shooting just 30.8 percent from deep. While he’s an elite athlete who’s fifth in the league in drives (18.2 per game), he has shot only 56.1 percent from within 5 feet. Irving, Joe Harris, Garrett Temple and even the recently waived Iman Shumpert have all shot better at the rim.
If Dinwiddie can finish better, he’ll finish his climb from former G-Leaguer to full-fledged All-Star. Atkinson told him as much.
“[I said,] ‘We need better: This equals All-Star if we can improve those areas. And defensive rebounding,’ ” Atkinson said. “He’s so receptive to coaching. That’s the time to coach guys, when they’re playing well. They’re even more open to listening. But the aggressive mentality, that’s coming from him. He’s taken the mantle.
“He knows the system so well. Our relationship’s good enough where he understands what we want. I’m pleasantly surprised in how aggressive he’s been, especially to the rim. We all know that’s his elite skill, his athleticism. … That’s his mindset right now, is super aggressive.”
Brooklyn had interest in Rayjon Tucker, according to SNY. Though Tucker got inked by the Jazz, it implies the Nets were not only willing to clear a roster spot or use the hardship exception, but could be open to other candidates beyond bringing Shumpert back.