The Nets were out there getting kicked by the Spurs Monday night at Barclays Center and Jeremy Lin was sitting there on the bench in a sports jacket, pullover shirt and jeans — street clothes again instead of a jersey with No. 7 on the back.
“A year of my prime down the drain,” the point guard wrote earlier in the day, the frustration practically jumping off his Facebook page after the bad word that he would be out another three to five weeks due to a setback in his comeback from a second left hamstring strain.
So it was 23-year-old third-year pro Spencer Dinwiddie playing the part of Lin at the start for the sixth straight game, and 21-year-old rookie Isaiah Whitehead backing up Dinwiddie. Whitehead scored a career-high 19 points and Dinwiddie delivered 13 in the 112-86 loss.
With Lin having played only 12 games and out for many more to come, Dinwiddie and Whitehead will continue to get experience and a chance to prove they belong. Coach Kenny Atkinson has seen progress from both.
“I think in a perfect world, we’d rather have them come along a little slower,” Atkinson said after his rebuilding, NBA-worst 9-35 team’s practice Tuesday at HSS Training Center for Wednesday night’s home game against Miami. “This is like pushing the process ahead a year.”
Detroit took the 6-6 Dinwiddie in the second round of the 2014 draft. He played 46 games with the Pistons over the last two seasons before being traded to Chicago last June. The former All-Pac-12 honoree at Colorado began this season with the D-League’s Windy City Bulls and averaged 19.4 points and 8.1 assists in nine games before the Nets signed him Dec. 8.
“Because of my situation, I think there is a certain amount of pressure just because it’s fragile,” said Dinwiddie, averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 assists in 21 games. “But at the same time, I don’t have to buy into the pressure necessarily. It’s really all about impacting the team in a positive way that helps lead to wins.”
Atkinson has liked Dinwiddie’s defense and his fit with the first unit. Whitehead has impressed lately with the second unit. The 6-4 second-rounder out of Seton Hall, acquired on draft night from Utah, is averaging 7.0 points and 2.8 assists in 36 games, including 23 starts. Whitehead has cut his high-risk passes and owns only six turnovers in his last seven games after committing 22 over the previous seven.
“I wish (Lin) was on the court to show me himself,” Whitehead said, “but it’s about just taking advantage of the opportunity and just trying to get better . . . and I think I’ve done a great job with that.”