LOS ANGELES — For more than two months while D’Angelo Russell recovered from knee surgery, there was no question point guard Spencer Dinwiddie was in charge of the Nets. But in the four games since Russell joined him in the starting lineup, it seems as if Dinwiddie has taken a step back to accommodate his new backcourt partner.
The numbers say it’s true. Dinwiddie’s scoring has dropped from 14.7 points per game to 9.0 over that span, and his assists have jumped from 6.7 to 8.5. Coach Kenny Atkinson has noticed the difference.
“I think those two are trying to find their niche,” Atkinson said Saturday after practice at UCLA. “I think they’re polite to each other. I think they’re trying to share, like good kids.
“Spencer only had five drives last game. He’s top 10 in the league in drives overall; he’s a great driver. ‘We need you downhill. D’Angelo, we need you to play pick-and-roll, not always defer.’ And somehow, they’ve got to find that balance. I like their chemistry in the sense of trying to work it out. On the other hand, they’ve also got to play their game.”
Dinwiddie says he’s just doing whatever is necessary for the Nets, who face the Clippers Sunday night at Staples Center. That includes feeding the Nets’ top scorer.
“If the ball is supposed to be in his hands, it’s going to be in his hands,” Dinwiddie said. “That’s what’s going to be the best thing for our team. I wouldn’t call it deferring at all . . . Adding somebody as talented as him can only make us better, especially in the long run. I said it before that it was his and Jeremy [Lin’s] team at the beginning of the year. We’re just figuring everything out on the fly.”
When Russell was on the shelf, there was no mistaking Dinwiddie’s take-charge style. Veteran DeMarre Carroll pulled no punches when asked if Dinwiddie has been trying to find his way alongside Russell.
“You either find it or you don’t,” Carroll said. “I know that’s kind of tough love, but that’s what I’m here for. Like I tell Spence, we need him to be the same Spence he was when D’Angelo was out of the lineup. Now that he’s back in the lineup, ‘We still need you to be that Spence that you were before.’ Write it that way.
“That Spence was helping our team win a lot of games. That’s why you all have grown to love Spence is because of the way he’s been playing, attacking the goal, playing with a chip on his shoulder. He’s just got to get back to that Spence.”
Dinwiddie laughed when Carroll’s comments were relayed to him. “Man, I choose to take that as a compliment,” Dinwiddie said. “I’ll try to pick up my intensity, my focus, my effort, all that. Other than that, I’m still the same Spencer. I didn’t go to All-Star break and suddenly lose my powers, just like when [Russell and Lin] got hurt, I didn’t suddenly gain powers. I’m still the same guy. We’re just going to continue to figure it out.”