For those Dallas Mavericks’ fans who lost sleep when guard Jalen Brunson left this past summer to sign a four-year, $104 million free agent contract with the New York Knicks, they should remember that that Spencer Dinwiddie is on this team.
The same Spencer Dinwiddie who averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2019-20 season. And the same Spencer Dinwiddie who drained clutch buzzer-beating three-pointers in back-to-back games at Boston and at Brooklyn last season after the Mavs acquired him in a trade with the Washington Wizards.
In other words, those in the basketball circles have to remind others that they need to put some respect behind Dinwiddie’s name.
“Obviously, Jalen, I’m super close to him,” guard Josh Green said. “That’s my guy, but at the end of the day he got paid. I don’t blame him, so I’m super happy for him.
“But Spencer is going to come in and play a pivotal role on our team this year. He’s a great leader and a very clutch player.”
After Brunson joined forces with the Knicks, coach Jason Kidd promoted Dinwiddie into becoming the Mavs’ new starting shooting guard and Luka Doncic’s backcourt running mate. And he’s already given the 6-6, 215-pounder the lay of the land.
“It’s just about being Spencer,” Kidd said. “We don’t need him to do anything more than what Spencer is capable of doing.
“Just like I told him when we traded for him, I just need you to be Spencer.”
It’s a job Dinwiddie is certainly prepared to tackle. Especially since he started seven of the 23 regular games he played for the Mavs last season.
“I don’t really see myself filling Jalen’s role per se,” Dinwiddie said. “There were a lot of games (last season) I finished games, there were games I played without Luka and without JB, and where I started games as well. But in terms of the mentality, green means go. Go make plays and try to win the game.”
In a role mainly off the bench last season for the Mavs, Dinwiddie averaged 15.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting a solid 49.8 percent from the field and a healthy 40.4 percent from three-point range.
“Now starting alongside Luka, some can look at it as a different role,” Kidd said. “But he played with Luka at times (last season).
“It’s just take advantage of having someone like that who is going to draw a lot of attention will make the game easier for you. Then I think him being able to set the table for some other guys, too.”
While playing for the Nets, Dinwiddie tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 27, 2020 and underwent season-ending surgery on Jan. 4, 2021. On Aug, 6, 2021, the Nets traded Dinwiddie to the Wizards, who eventually traded him to the Mavs this past Feb. 10.
Thus, Dinwiddie is in his first training camp with the Mavs, adding that it’s like night and day from when he spent the 2021 training camp with the Wizards.
“Last year was a rehab year,” Dinwiddie said. “I got cleared to play from the ACL in five months, and I think the first game was eight or seven months away from surgery. Now we’re 20 months outside from that.
“If you ask anybody that’s been through any major injury, to even be able to come back that quickly is definitely a testament to the work. But it’s just completely different being almost two years removed.”
Dinwiddie said all the issues of his mind playing tricks with him because he had the ACL injury are all gone.
“It’s a normal offseason, full training mode, not worried about swelling or taking a break, or two days on and one day off,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s let’s get to it.”
What’s more, Dinwiddie doesn’t have to worry about getting involved with a load management situation where he’s held out of games because management is concerned about the ACL injury possibly flaring up.
“I know the Mavericks in general consistently watch minutes for all players,” Dinwiddie said. “I think historically if you look at my career in the NBA people talk about injuries, but it’s actually kind of a misnomer.
Since then, Dinwiddie primarily showed up and punched the time clock. He was as reliable as they come.
“The Covid year (during the 2019-20 season) l played all 64 (games) the pre-bubble season, then I caught Covid,” Dinwiddie said. “That’s when everybody thought you were going to die with Covid. No joke.
“When I caught it everybody was like, ‘Oh no! What’s going to happen to his heart?’ It was like a serious thing.”
Kidd is just happy that the Mavs were in a position to replace Brunson with some of Dinwiddie’s caliber.
“It’s nice to have that luxury,” he said. “But when you talk about someone coming off the bench — that type of firepower will now be in the starting lineup — it takes a little time to make the adjustment.
“He looks great. He’s in shape. Him and Luka have done well playing together.”
And that bodes well for the Mavs.
“Obviously any time you’re traded at midseason, sometimes you’re just hoping to fit in and not rock the boat,” Dinwiddie said. “Now it’s kind of about establishing building an ark.”