OK, so the Mavericks are muddling along right now. We can all agree on that.
They’ve lost two of the first three on this four-game home stand and need a win desperately Tuesday against Washington to stop the bleeding. Overall, the Mavericks have eight home losses and eight road wins. That pace guarantees nothing more than a .500 record when the schedule evens out.
You can point to many different reasons why the results have not been as great as everybody had hoped as the Mavericks prepare for Game No. 49.
But you’d have a hard time pinning any of the blame on Spencer Dinwiddie.
The combo guard, who is two years, one month removed from his torn ACL suffered when he was with Brooklyn, was looked at as a bit of a risk when the Mavericks acquired him last season from Washington.
But he’s to the point now where he looks every bit like the player he was before that injury, complete with those rim-rattling dunks of late (more on that in a moment).
He’s missed only one game, which may be the biggest testament to his comeback from a major injury. No Maverick has played in all 48 so far. Dinwiddie has averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists and shot 39.8 percent from three-point land.
That may not be enough to qualify him as a true No. 2 in support of Luka Dončić. But it is enough to replace – almost exactly – what Jalen Brunson gave the Mavericks last season (16.3 points, 4.8 assists, 37.3 percent shooting in 79 games).
So while Dinwiddie may or may not be a No. 2 in the star pecking order, he’s been really solid this season.
“He’s been great, whether it’s playing along with Luka or leading the second unit when Luka’s out,” coach Jason Kidd said.
He’s been particularly sharp lately. He’s scored in double figures in each of the last 14 games and averaged 18.3 points to go with 5.1 assists.
But perhaps Dinwiddie’s most endearing quality has been his presence in the locker room. He had perhaps the most impassioned interview of the season so far when he detailed the reasons why Dwight Powell has been such a valuable part of the Mavericks’ machine.
His grip on reality is every bit as firm as his grip on the team when he’s running the offense, which he is doing more often these days as the Mavericks try to find creative ways to take the pressure of Luka, such as having somebody else bring the ball upcourt rather than having a defender hounding Dončić and draining energy that he shouldn’t have to expend.
“I just try to take care of my business and work as hard as I can,” is a refrain we’ve heard from Dinwiddie. But he’s also the kind of player who knows the pulse of the team.
Recently, on the “Outta Pocket” podcast, Dinwiddie addressed his situation relative to where the team is with Luka being the head of the snake.
“Luka is obviously far and away our superstar, and we have other guys who are good players obviously,” Dinwiddie said. “But because there’s not another superstar, it’s not apples to apples, it’s always gonna be Luka and the boys.
“So you just got to be mentally tough and be built for that off the court, because like I said, on the court he’s going to make it a lot easier.”
But Dinwiddie knows it’s also the rest of the Mavericks’ job to make life as easy as possible for Luka, too.
It’s up to Dinwiddie and his teammates to convert all those open three-pointers (or as many as possible) that Dončić creates for them.
“Of course that’s our job,” Dinwiddie said earlier this month. “We’re going to get open looks with Luka on the floor.”
And open lanes to the paint, too. And it’s up to Dinwiddie and friends to make the defense pay when they overplay Luka.
Lately, Dinwiddie has done that. He’s had a few massive, one-handed dunks – more proof that his legs are back to what they used to be before he missed most of the 2020-21 season.
Those sorts of dunks provide some comic relief in the locker room as the Mavericks compare throw-downs of Dončić, Dinwiddie, Christian Wood and a few others.
And as the Mavericks finish their four-game homestand, the fact that Dinwiddie has been a dependable lieutenant to Dončić throughout the season is not lost. As they say, the best ability is availability.
“He’s been amazing all season,” Dončić said. “He’s been shooting the ball great and he’s been getting to the rim.”