The Nets have been banged up for so long that the newest challenge is nearly unprecedented: how to handle a roster that’s actually healthy.
On Friday against the Hornets, the Nets welcomed back Spencer Dinwiddie, who had thumb surgery Jan. 28. That meant that for the first time since opening day 2017, the entire roster was at Kenny Atkinson’s disposal. But with only 18 games left in the regular season (after Friday), the learning curve is steep, Atkinson said.
“We’re just going to have to figure it out,” he said before the game against the Hornets. “It’s a little bit trial and error, just like with Caris [LeVert] coming back . . . It impacts the whole roster.”
Dinwiddie was averaging 17.2 points before suffering the injury. He had 15 points and four assists in 23 minutes in Friday’s 123-112 loss to Charlotte.
Atkinson conceded that Dinwiddie’s return will require significant juggling — fewer minutes, it would seem, from the likes of Allen Crabbe and Shabazz Napier. The situation is still new, though, so it’s likely that the Nets will experiment with a few different rotations before settling on a plan of action.
“We’ll figure it out,” Atkinson said. “I think the goal is to get to a set lineup, set minutes. I don’t think it’s going to happen tonight, but we’ll get to that as quickly as possible. The runway is not that long, but Spencer being back will affect guys’ minutes up and down the roster.”
The expectation is that Dinwiddie will get back in the groove relatively quickly. Days after surgery, he was running up and down the court, a clear advantage over LeVert, whose gruesome leg injury meant a slower process before he finally returned.
“He’s one of our best players,” Atkinson said of Dinwiddie, who was a potential candidate for Sixth Man of the Year before his injury. “He had an outstanding year — speed, size, athleticism. You even felt it watching him in the G League practice and even when he was running up and down the court not doing anything with his hand, it gives us another elite athlete that will really help our athleticism.”