As it was in the beginning, so it may be again.
The original blueprint for this Nets team had a pair of point guards in the starting lineup, Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. The plan — and the seasons of the two players — didn’t go well. Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee in the opener and was lost for the season. Russell got hurt in early November, required left knee surgery and missed 32 games.
However Brooklyn may now be getting another shot to try out the first blueprint again. Starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie — the revelation of the Nets season — could soon be joined by Russell. He has been coming off the bench since he returned a month ago and, after averaging 18.3 points and 6.3 assists in the three games before the All-Star break, may be back in pre-surgery form. He was averaging 20.9 and 5.7 when he got hurt.
“D’Angelo is starting to round into form,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I still don’t think he’s at peak level, which is normal. I think he’s taking steps to get there . . . [Against Indiana] we really saw some pop in his legs, some great decision-making [and] obviously [he] scored the ball.”
“When you sit down and watch the film, there are things where you say ‘oh OK, he’s getting that step there,’ or ‘oh OK, he’s seeing that pass there,’ or ‘oh OK, he’s getting that shot off there,’” Dinwiddie said of Russell’s improvement. “It’s every single game. Sometimes it shows in the boxscore and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Atkinson wouldn’t commit to returning Russell to the starting lineup but said he would be paired with Dinwiddie on the floor much more.
“It’s something similar to Jeremy and D’Angelo in the beginning. I do like that. I do like having two guards that can really handle the ball,” he said.
Dinwiddie has been starting alongside shooting guard Allen Crabbe and that raises another conundrum: Would Crabbe go to the second unit or is there a way that he can remain a starter?
“You’ve got to look at the other pieces and how they fit — someone’s got to be out,” Atkinson said. “One of our good wing players has got to be out if [Dinwiddie and Russell] are going to play. Or we go super small; that’s another way. Figuring that puzzle out is a challenge.”
Dinwiddie was asked about the advantages the Nets might get if both he and Russell are on the floor at the same time and replied, “There’s a lot of flexibility.”
“The beauty of the situation is we both have size, we both have a very versatile skill set, you kind of throw Caris [LeVert] in there as well, in terms of being able to play with and off of each other,” Dinwiddie said. “There’s no real limitation.”
Hollis-Jefferson, LeVert likely back for Bulls. Atkinson Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert were likely to miss Thursday’s game at Charlotte but both are likely to return for Monday’s home game against the Bulls. Hollis-Jefferson has missed 10 games so far with a groin injury, but practiced Tuesday before being given Wednesday off. LeVert missed the last four games with a right knee injury and participated in parts of Tuesday’s practice before having Wednesday off. “Hopeful for Monday,” Atkinson said.