Those big baskets Spencer Dinwiddie has made since he joined the Dallas Mavericks about two months ago in a trade with the Washington Wizards doesn’t surprise Rodney Billups.
Billups was an assistant coach for the University of Colorado from 2012-16, and Dinwiddie played three seasons for the Buffaloes from 2011-14. Billups saw Dinwiddie rise up and convert big basket after big basket with the Buffaloes.
“He loves it and he prepares for it,” Billups said. “I don’t know if you’ve paid attention to his routine and his regimen, but he’s locked in.
“He’s locked in to being a good basketball player and he’s ready for the moment.”
During his final season at Colorado, Dinwiddie had the Buffaloes rolling with a 14-3 record and a No. 21 ranking in the NCAA polls. At the time, Colorado was considered to be a Sweet 16 participant, and the 6-6 guard was considered to be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft.
However, on Jan. 12, 2014, Dinwiddie tore his left anterior cruciate ligament when his knee buckled after he took an awkward step on a fast break. It was, to say the least, a devastating blow for Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes.
“We were a Top 25 team at the time when he did it,” said Billups, who is now an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers. “I remember the play in Washington. You know how — and this is a bit of a stretch here — but I remember the energy that the building had. You remember how it felt when Mike Tyson got beat by Buster Douglas?
“The wind just left everybody’s body in awe of what the heck just happened. (Dinwiddie’s injury) was a freak accident. It was a no-contact injury and it left everybody speechless. Our team, we never recovered from the injury. It took a year-and-a-half for our program to get back to where it was when Spencer got hurt.”
Billups speaks about Dinwiddie in glowing terms. He was the head of the snake in the Buffaloes’ program with averages of 10 points as a freshman, 15.3 during his sophomore season and 14.7 in his final year, and wasn’t surprised when Dinwiddie drilled game-winning three-pointers earlier this season in consecutive games against Boston and Brooklyn.
“He was our best player for the three years that he was there,” Billups said. “He did a lot for us. He came in as an untraditional point guard and we forced him to be our playmaker, our best defender, our best shooter, and he just took on every challenge.”
Billups recalls the days when Dinwiddie was like a sponge, ready to soak up as much information as possible. His quest for success was undeniable.
“He’s super competitive in a sense that he wants to be the best at everything,” Billups said. “He wants to know all of the information as to why he’s been given that challenge.
“He’s a little misunderstood, but he’s a good player.”
A good player who was so impactful that he was named first-team All-Pac-12 following his sophomore season with the Buffaloes.
“He talked about how he wanted to be a good point guard, but nobody really gave him a chance to be a point guard,” Billups said. “The way we recruited him at the time was we’re going to identify what your goals are and what you want. Spencer was perfect at that.
“He was a joy to coach, he brought it every single day, he won 90 percent of the drills in practice, and he was just a winner for us. He continues to take on every challenge – it sounds like – by what (the Mavs) are doing down there.”
Billups and the youthful Blazers (27-53) will take on the Mavs (50-30) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center. And Billups can’t wait to catch up with Dinwiddie.
Meanwhile, Billups is very impressed with the Mavs’ three-guard lineup of Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson and Dinwiddie. And he believes the Mavs will be a headache for some teams once the playoffs roll around.
“It all depends on the matchup, but I think Dallas is a hard out because of the guards,” Billups said. “The guard play that Luka brings to the game and then you compliment him with two different types of players in Spencer and Brunson, if you put them all together you’ve got the perfect point guard.
“You’ve got a scorer in Luka, a great passer in Luka. You’ve got a knock down shooter in Spencer with great size and ability to guard. And you’ve got a playmaker in Jalen who is composed and makes all the right plays. You’ve got the perfect point guard. I think (the Mavs) are definitely a hard out just because of the guard play that you have. Then you throw in all those other pieces that you have, I like y’all’s team.”
Because of Dinwiddie’s injury, he slipped from being a first-round draft pick to being chosen in the second round – No. 38 overall – by the Detroit Pistons in the 2014 NBA Draft. In the meantime, his competitive nature and will to win games for the Buffaloes stood out to Billups.
“He took all the big shots,” said Billups. “Granted, he didn’t make them all, but he took all the big shots and guarded the best player every night.
“We had some fun times. He and his family are such great people.”
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