DENVER — With starting power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and backup Trevor Booker both sidelined by injuries, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he would have to go with some “funky lineups” against the Nuggets Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. The solution he came up with was sliding DeMarre Carroll to power forward and Allen Crabbe to small forward while inserting backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie at shooting guard alongside point guard D’Angelo Russell.
It was a treat for Dinwiddie to start in Denver because he played in college up the road in Boulder at the University of Colorado. “This was a great point in my basketball career and helped get me where I am today,” Dinwiddie said of his return to Colorado. “The love they showed me then and the love I continue to get to this day is wonderful and it’s special. To come back here in front of some of the folks, it’s big-time.”
Dinwiddie’s family is in Los Angeles, but he said Jeremy Adams, his best friend and teammate with the Buffs, would be at the game. Of course, the Denver media was interested in Dinwiddie’s progress, and Atkinson was happy to hold him up as an example of the Nets’ development program after plucking him from the G-League last season.
“It’s what we’re all about,” Atkinson said. “He’s bought into our offseason development program. He wasn’t the most confident player when he came in, being out of the league a little bit. He just keeps growing. He’s gotten stronger and more confident. He’s played really well for us, and he’s a great kid, too. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Because Dinwiddie plays such a critical role running the second unit, it’s not practical to pair him with Russell too often, but Atkinson did it at the end of the Nets’ win Monday in Phoenix and uses it to take Russell off the ball at times.
“We were able to pull off the win [in Phoenix], so that’s a good sign,” Dinwiddie said of the pairing. “Really, my role when I’m out with ‘D-Lo’ is to try to continue to make good basketball plays. Obviously, it’s different than when I play with the second unit because I’m off the ball more.
“ ‘D-Lo’ is our franchise guy, so, he’s going to be our primary guy whenever he’s on the floor. Whatever I need to do to complement that is what my job is.”