As impressive as their climb back to respectability and playoff contention has been, the Nets haven’t been whole in the backcourt since Caris LeVert was injured in the 14th game of the season.
With LeVert fighting to regain his shooting form seven games into his comeback from a November foot injury, fellow guard Spencer Dinwiddie will be back in the lineup Friday for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right thumb on Jan. 28.
D’Angelo Russell emerged as a first-time All-Star in their absences, so LeVert will remain in the starting lineup with Dinwiddie coming off the bench, according to coach Kenny Atkinson.
“Kenny I’m sure has a plan for the rotations, but as for us players, as long as we keep the focus on the goal, none of that other stuff really matters,” Dinwiddie said Thursday at the team’s practice facility. “For sure, D-Lo’s obviously playing at a high level. Caris is working back into form.
“They’re going to do what they do, and our focus and our sights are set on the playoffs and trying to win as many games as possible and trying to be that team that not only makes it but strikes a little fear into some of those top seeds’ hearts.”
The Nets (32-31), who will face Charlotte on Friday, are sixth in the Eastern Conference but have dropped seven of their past 11 games. Atkinson knows he doesn’t have the luxury of time to find cohesiveness among his guard rotation.
“It’s not a huge sample size, so we’re going to have to figure that out, what that looks like,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, the difficult thing is the runway’s not that long. We have 19 games [remaining], it’s not like we have 60 games to figure this out. So we’ve got to get going.”
The Nets didn’t practice on Thursday, but Dinwiddie scrimmaged with the team’s G League Long Island affiliate in Brooklyn. Forwards Jared Dudley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who received two DNPs each before coming off the bench against the Wizards, also took part.
Dinwiddie, who has averaged 17.2 points in 49 appearances (45 off the bench) this season, also is expected to play Saturday night in Miami “since he’s been doing a ton on the court” to maintain his conditioning, Atkinson said.
LeVert was held scoreless on five shot attempts Wednesday against Washington and is shooting 32.4 percent (24-for-74) in seven games after missing more than 10 weeks.
“Even though [Wednesday] was a step back, I still feel like I’m right there,” he said. “Every game I feel like I take a step closer. Even [Wednesday], I can still take moments from the game where it’s like, ‘OK, I felt like myself during that play.’ It may not have went in or it may not have turned out to be good on the stat sheet, but in my mind, I know that that’s how I feel when I’m playing good basketball. Every game, every practice, I feel like I’m a step closer.”