By Tom Dowd
The Brooklyn Nets open their home schedule Friday night against the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center, but the anticipation of their 2017-18 Brooklyn debut is tempered knowing they’ll be without a respected leader and teammate.
Guard Jeremy Lin underwent surgery Friday morning for a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee, suffered Wednesday night in the season opener against the Indiana Pacers.
“There’s so much excitement around a new season that we’re still going to be kind of riding a little bit of that high and be able to have our home opener,” said guard Spencer Dinwiddie. “But anytime you go through with your brother, whether it be last season, this summer, training camp, all of us have had our bond with Jeremy. To lose a brother, of course it hurts. But we understand the task ahead, and our job is to win games.”
Dinwiddie, a point guard who started 18 games for the Nets last season, will be part of filling the void left by Lin’s absence. Even with Lin and D’Angelo Russell in the starting lineup – two players who have primarily played the point – Dinwiddie played his way into coach Kenny Atkinson’s 10-man opening night rotation, playing 17 minutes.
After playing 46 games over two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Dinwiddie was signed by the Nets last December. At 6-foot-6, he gave the Nets some desired length at the point guard spot. Lin at the time was sidelined by a hamstring injury, returning briefly in late December and then missing time again until March.
Dinwiddie continued to develop during that time, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range over 10 games last February before Lin returned, and found Lin’s support a positive.
“It’s been great,” said Dinwiddie. “He’s a hard worker. He’s just really a genuinely nice guy. So it’s tough to see a guy that nice and that good of a person go down. I think that’s probably the toughest part.”
BARCLAYS CENTER DEBUT FOR RUSSELL
If Russell’s performance in his first regular season game at Barclays Center tonight looks anything like the show he put on against the Pacers on Wednesday, he’ll find an appreciative crowd. And he’s looking forward to it.
“Beyond excited,” said Russell. “Just to get the chance to play in front of this crowd, I think they’ve wanted this, the excitement, for years now.”
Russell led the Nets with 30 points on Wednesday night, shooting 12-of-22 from the field (54 percent) and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He also had five assists. Russell’s 30 points were the most by a Nets player in his franchise debut since Hall of Famer Tiny Archibald had 30 in the 1976 season opener, the Nets’ first game in the NBA.
“I think everybody’s still confident,” said Russell. “Had a good preseason run. First game we came up short. But I liked the way we came out, the energy.”
The Nets put up 131 points on Wednesday, shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. They put up 30 3-pointers and attacked the rim with aggression to draw 32 free throw attempts, making 29.
But Indiana shot 52 percent from the field while putting eight players in double figures and scoring 140 points.
“Transition and second-chance points,” said Caris LeVert. “We can’t give them easy baskets like that. We have to make them score in the half court.”
So some pickup on that end of the court has been a priority heading into tonight’s season opener.
“Coach has been preaching it,” said Russell. “He has a right to. We struggled with the little things, the stuff we can control and we didn’t control the last game. So we have to control that and limit those mental lapses and we’ll be all right.
“It’s little things. The best thing about it is we can control it. It was transition defense and limiting our fouls and turnovers. Those things we can control.”
ABOUT THE MAGIC
The Magic won their season opener against the Miami Heat, 116-109 on Wednesday. Evan Fournier led six players in double figures with 23 points, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Last season Vucevic averaged 22.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in three games against the Nets.