Spencer Dinwiddie tore up his knee two days after Christmas in 2020. It was the third game of the delayed 2020-21 season.
Less than 10 months later, the 6-5 guard played in the season opener for Washington. Two days later, on Oct. 22, he had 34 points and nine assists in a one-point win over Indiana.
From that heady beginning with the Washington Wizards, things somehow spiraled downward after the season’s first 20 games, during which Dinwiddie piloted the Wizards to a 13-7 record.
On Feb. 10, the NBA’s trading deadline, Dinwiddie was sent to the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.
It was the end of a quick stopover in Washington. Dinwiddie’s injury happened with Brooklyn. The Wizards took a chance on him with a lucrative contract, even though he was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
That’s where the story got interesting.
On Saturday, after pouring in 36 points in the 114-113 win over Sacramento, Dinwiddie spoke with poise and truthfulness about his performance so far with the Mavericks and what the exit from Washington was like.
Here are the highlights from that interview:
Question: Why do you feel you have fit so much better with the Mavericks than you did with the Wizards?
Dinwiddie: “Not to beat a dead horse, but I just think our commitment to the collective and to winning games is all that matters. You’re not going to catch me out here picking up De’Aaron Fox 94 feet (full court). That would be out of character. I’m not a ball-pressure guard. I’ll sit there and guard you one-on-one, but it’s not my role and I’m not going to do that.
“My job on offense is to get in the paint and make plays. I’ll shoot the three when I have the switch and when I’m open, but I’m not just casting 30-footers like I’m Steph Curry. I do what I do, and I don’t do what I’m not supposed to do. That goes 1 through 15. Everybody here follows that type of mentality because we understand that to not just win basketball games in the regular season, but in the playoffs, you need that.”
Question: How have you gotten in such a good rhythm so quickly?
Dinwiddie: “I think I approached it as cautiously optimistic. I knew I had a couple of friends here in (Reggie) Bullock, Theo (Pinson) and JD (Jared Dudley) on the coaching staff. You still approach the situation with kiddie gloves to see what’s going on. Everything they said to me so far has been authentic and everybody bought into, like I said, doing what they need to do to win. They encouraged me to be aggressive. I missed my first three layups (against Sacramento) and I felt like those were good shots. They aren’t mad. It’s not like Bullock and Doe-Doe are like, ‘man, why am I not shooting? Like, what are you doing.’
“They’re like ‘no, bro, if you get another layup shoot it. Until they stop you, if you can keep getting layups I don’t care if you missed twenty of them, we believe in you to be aggressive.’ That’s the culture of the group and I’m going to stay in attack mode.”
Question: Obviously, you have fit well with your new teammates. But the whispers at the trade deadline were that you were not a positive in the locker room for Washington? Did you hear that?
“I think that’s what hurt the most. I’ve never bashed Washington. I’ve never said an ill thing about the team. I thanked the owner, Ted (Leonsis). I thanked Tommy Sheppard, the GM, for collectively deciding to give me my contract. They didn’t have to pay somebody coming off an ACL. I appreciate that. Wes (Unseld Jr.), being a first-time head coach, has a wealth of basketball knowledge. So to be bashed out on the way out the door hurt my feelings, for sure. I’m human, of course.
“And you got to remember. When we were (10-3) and everybody was going crazy, and we had all those clutch games, I was the one hitting the game winners. Look at the Indiana game, two Boston games, I was the one doing that. And that was back when I wasn’t playing back to backs. When the role changed and they wanted me to pass more, they thought I was scoring a lot, I did that. I took my foot off the gas for a while because that’s what they felt the team needed.
“So to get kind of kicked out the door was a wild feeling. I hadn’t really experienced that before. But I still have nothing ill to say other than, yes, it hurt my feelings. But like anything else, you become cautious. And so far it’s a great fit (in Dallas). I love what they ask me to do here which is get in the paint and I’m going to continue to do that and try to be of service.”
Question: How about that last play against Sacramento when Brunson fed Dorian Finney-Smith for a 3-pointer to win it?
Dinwiddie: “JB made a great read, beat him to the basket, and I mean – really, he had the layup and the pass. I think trusting Doe-Doe to knock down a corner three is monumental because it also puts them in a bind. Now you have to hit a three to have any shot at the game. Three seconds left, and they ended up with probably the best look you can get with three seconds, but it’s not a high-percentage shot. Harrison Barnes fading [on the] left side, falling away – you’re probably going to win the game doing that. Doe-Doe is a great, especially right corner, 3-point shooter. It was a phenomenal play by the two of them and thank you for the win.”
Question: Are you claiming Theo Pinson as a friend now? You playfully said you put up with him when you arrived in Dallas.
Dinwiddie: “Thank you for asking that. So, here’s the thing. It’s kind of like when you have a little brother or maybe like a little half-brother, because he doesn’t look good enough to be in my family, but you know.
“You take him under your wing, and you try to show him the ropes and he keeps hitting his head on the wall. So, you keep getting frustrated with him, but there’s love. I don’t like him, but there’s just a natural love there. Stop hitting your head on the wall Theo please.”
Question: Is Tim Hardaway Jr. giving Theo a run for his money for being “best bench hype man?”
Dinwiddie: “That’s tough. That’s tough. I think Hardaway is going crazy for sure. I think Sham (Shammgod) on the coaching staff is going crazy. But I’ll say this – and this again goes for my love but not my like (for Theo): Theo is the best hype man, culture guy, whatever you want to call it, in the NBA. I’ve been in the NBA eight years. I’ve been on like five teams, or something like that. Theo is the best.
“I’ll take him on a team any day. The mood is instantly lighter. It’s instantly better. You going through some tough times, he’s going to make you laugh. You going through some good times, he’s going to make you feel great – unless he’s talking to me, because then I’ve got to say ‘look little bro, you can’t beat me…’ But, I’ll take him on my team any day. I promise you that.”