Fan favorite Spencer Dinwiddie returned to Brooklyn on Monday night and was greeted with cheers when he was announced pregame as member of the Washington Wizards before the Nets’ second home game of the season at Barclays Center.
Dinwiddie, who signed a three-year, $60-million contract with Washington after playing the last five seasons with the Nets, hit a three-pointer for his first basket of the night.
No cheers. Reminiscing only lasts until the opening tip.
Dinwiddie played in only three games last season before suffering an ACL tear. In his first game with Washington and new running mate Bradley Beal, Dinwiddie had 13 points and four assists.
In his second game, with Beal out with a hip injury, Dinwiddie scored 34 points on Friday in Washington’s 135-134 overtime victory against Indiana.
"He looks great," Nets coach Steve Nash said before the game. "I’m really happy. Excited for him. To have him back and look 100%t and look like his old self, it’s great news and great to see, and he will challenge us tonight. He’s a great athlete, a playmaker, he can score, and I think he’s a great piece for them."
Dinwiddie was an important part of the Nets’ initial rebuild after spending his first two seasons in Detroit. He averaged a career-best 20.6 points in 2019-’20, but there was no room under the cap for him to return once Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden came aboard. So he went to Washington on a sign-and-trade as part of a five-team deal and has paid immediate dividends for the Wizards.
"Look, I get it, I’m not the sexiest name," Dinwiddie, 28, said after the Wizards improved to 2-0 on Friday. "But those things happen. The proof is in the pudding. Like, game-winning shots, we can go on YouTube and look at mine. And if Brad’s out, I probably will be the one taking those most times. So you just understand what’s the best shot for our team. But ain’t no fear in those moments. Like, in my opinion, I’m one of, if not the best, in the league at it."
Said Beal: "I like his size, his athletic ability, his ability to score — which takes a lot of pressure off me in having to create new things — and his love for the game. I’ve competed against him in Brooklyn. We always usually guard each other, so I know what he’s about. He’s about winning, he’s about competing. I know I can go to war with him."
Beal, who had declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, returned from his injury to face the Nets. Beal is allowed to play in New York City as a visitor according to city regulations, but hometown guard Irving is not allowed to play in New York City as an unvaccinated member of the Nets.
Barclays Center officials were forced on Sunday to briefly shut the arena’s doors before the Nets-Hornets game after a group of protesters — some chanting "Let Kyrie Play" — pushed past metal barricades and stormed the main entrance.
The protesters did not return on Monday.
The Nets decided on Oct. 12 to not let Irving play in either home or road games as long as he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dinwiddie could have helped the Nets as a point guard in Irving’s absence. But no one could have foreseen Irving having to sit out every game under these circumstances.
Nash, for one, is happy to just see Dinwiddie back on the court.
"It does take a lot of mental strength and confidence to turn that corner," he said. "You could be medically approved, you could be back on the court, but are you yourself again? That’s the last challenge — that mental barrier — for players that go through ACLs, or as Kevin did with his Achilles."
Two recalled from Long Island. Before the game, the Nets recalled Day’Ron Sharpe and Cam Thomas from their NBA G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets.