BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Spencer Dinwiddie could not beat the NBA system financially, though not for a lack of trying. He is more than making up for it on the court for the surging Brooklyn Nets.
In fact, he was so good Friday in a 112-107 matinee victory over the Boston Celtics that his coach, Kenny Atkinson, said he was “playing as good as any player in the NBA.”
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Luka Doncic may take exception to that statement, but Atkinson was speaking from the heart Sunday afternoon after Dinwiddie shut down Kemba Walker and dropped 32 points and 11 assists on the Boston Celtics to help Brooklyn win for the fifth time in six games.
“I don’t want to say we’re ready for a top seed or anything like that. We’re still building this thing, but this stretch has helped us because it shows we do have depth,” Atkinson said. “Moments like these make teams stronger.”
“The group is coming together from a spiritual chemistry standpoint, and this was important: Can you beat a really, really good team when you’re shorthanded.”
Whether or not Kevin Durant returns this season depends on whether you believe what he said ... that it’s out of the question. But remember that DeMarcus Cousins returned last season after suffering the exact same injury — a torn Achilles — and Durant is not exactly carrying around the same amount of weight as Durant. What is said in October and November sometimes becomes irrelevant by March or April.
Kyrie Irving is also out for the Nets (he began on court drills Friday but will not play Sunday against Miami), as is Caris LaVert, depriving the Nets of their three primary offensive weapons.
That has put the brunt of the offensive workload on Dinwiddie, who has led the team in scoring in seven of their last nine games.
When he is on the court, his speed and ability to draw fouls make the Nets especially difficult to defend. When he sits, they pretty much stink.
So perhaps that was why Atkinson heaped such high praise on the 26-year-old, sixth-year pro whose scoring average has gone from 17.1 ppg last season to 20.2 this season. He has not had a sub-20 point game in the last six outings.
“I haven’t actually shot the 3 better than I did to start last season, so that’s something I’d like to do better,” said Dinwiddie, who moved into the starting lineup after Irving (right shoulder impingement) was injured five games ago.
“The role is completely different, so obviously there is a change there,” Dinwiddie said. “My approach to the game is very similar either way. It’s whatever the team needs to win, and then the role kind of dictates that.
“Sometimes it will be defense, sometimes it will be offense,” said Dinwiddie, noting that his fast start offensively Sunday was a byproduct of his aggressive deny-the-ball defense against Walker to start the game.
Dinwiddie was in the news during the offseason for the way he tried to structure his contract, intending to use his three-year, $34 million deal as an investment vehicle, essentially selling bonds in himself to give him a much larger pool of money to use now.
Known as a securitization, the borrower gives up some future income in return for a smaller lump sum payment. But the borrower, in this case Dinwiddie, then has more money to immediately invest than he otherwise would.
In Dinwiddie’s case, is became known as “tokening.” (A token is a digital currency term. The bond exists in the digital currency world. Instead of buying the bond from a broker, it is through a token.) This Dinwiddie bond would pay investors principal back along with interest, which would be covered by what the Nets owe him. Dinwiddie has talked frequently about investing in Bitcoin and about crypto-currencies in general.
The NBA eventually denied his contact conversion into a digital investment.
But the talk Sunday was all about basketball ... and how Dinwiddie has made such a quantum leap these past few games since Irving went down.
It led to a quote from Atkinson that was a bit over the top, but the fact of the matter is that the Nets would be a bottom-feeder in the East if not for the spark being provided by their fourth-best player.