Spencer Dinwiddie will start at point guard in place of injured D’Angelo Russell against the streaking Celtics on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. But the good news for the Nets is that Dinwiddie has been there and done that not only this season but last.
Signed out of the G League last season when backup point guard Greivis Vasquez failed to recover from an ankle injury, Dinwiddie started 18 games when Jeremy Lin was injured. When Russell sat out a game earlier this season, Dinwiddie took over and had 22 points and six assists in a win over the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers.
Asked Monday after practice if the scenario feels familiar, Dinwiddie laughed and said, “Yeah, man. Last year and this year. I guess it’s par for the course.”
Dinwiddie is coming off a minor hamstring injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game at Utah in which Russell suffered a left knee contusion. Dinwiddie said his hamstring feels fine and that the Nets simply took a cautious approach. Undoubtedly, they will do the same with Russell, who was ruled out of the Boston game and is listed as day-to-day.
Asked if he considers Russell’s injury a short-term or long-term situation, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was guarded. “We’ll keep re-evaluating day-to-day,” he said. “I really don’t want to put a timetable on it and give you false expectations either way.”
Dinwiddie said he spoke with Russell, but not about the specifics of his injury status. “I think he’s optimistic,” Dinwiddie said. “I know, obviously, he’s returning this season. We’re just playing it by ear and hoping for the best and hoping for a speedy recovery and that he’s not in any pain.”
There’s no telling how long Dinwiddie might have to hold the fort until Russell returns to his starting role, but the first assignment is as tough as it gets. The Celtics (12-2) have won 12 straight since losing their first two games, and point guard Kyrie Irving is averaging 20.3 points and 5.2 assists. Irving, who suffered a small fracture underneath his right eye Friday against the Lakers, is questionable for the game.
“He’s one of the shiftiest guards in the league, and beyond that, the Celtics are probably playing the best basketball in the NBA now,” Dinwiddie said. “We have to stick to our principles and play hard and hopefully get a win.’’
Reminded how well he played against the Cavs, Dinwiddie said, “No two games are the same. When you’re in the starting spot, especially with the way we’re going to play, there’s going to be more possessions to work with and it’s on me to convert those possessions and help the team.
“Try to keep turnovers down so we can get as many good- quality shots at the basket as possible. Try to share it with your teammates so they remain involved and continue to execute on both sides of the floor, and then knock down shots when it’s my time to shoot. Just a well-rounded game.”
Second-year player Isaiah Whitehead, who recently was called up from the G League Long Island Nets, will back up Dinwiddie. Caris LeVert and Sean Kilpatrick also will help with the ballhandling.
“The way we play, we do have different guys bringing it up,” Atkinson said. “So it’s not that traumatic . . . [Russell] was playing at a pretty high level. Obviously, it’s a blow, but on the other hand, I do think we’re much better equipped this year. Spencer has made a jump up. Isaiah has a year under his belt. Obviously, Sean played a lot of minutes last year. I feel a lot more confident.”
Notes & quotes: Rookie center Jarrett Allen (strained foot), who has missed the past six games, practiced Monday and is listed as questionable.