Before Spencer Dinwiddie got the call from the Brooklyn Nets, he got the ball with the Windy City Bulls.
This was in the fall of 2016. Crossroads time for a young player. At 23, Dinwiddie was out of the league after two seasons, cut by the Chicago Bulls after training camp. He could have packed up and gone abroad to play.
But Dinwiddie had always set his course based on the belief that he would be an NBA player. It influenced his college choice, when he opted for Colorado over the Ivy League. After a knee injury ended his junior season with the Buffaloes, Dinwiddie still had the confidence to opt for the NBA Draft. And after two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, that belief led him to the G League.
“When you look at my career and the way it’s always gone, I’ve always bet on myself,” said Dinwiddie. “I felt like I should be in the NBA, and I could be an impact player in the NBA. I wanted to double down one more time and see if it could come to fruition.”
He found someone to back up his belief in Windy City coach Nate Loenser.
“He sat me down before the season,” said Dinwiddie. “He said look, obviously you got cut. It’s not where you want to be. We know that you played very well in training camp and throughout the preseason. I want to see you up in the NBA just as much as you want to be there. So I’m going to give you that opportunity to do what you need to do on the court. Lead us to wins. But get yourself back there. He really gave me the ball and let me play. That kind of started the ascension that everybody’s seeing now.”
Dinwiddie took that opportunity and capitalized. He played nine games for Windy City, averaging 19.4 points and 8.1 assists per game while playing 37 minutes a night, and on December 8, 2016, he signed on with the Nets.
Fourteen months later, he was in Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend, winning the 2018 Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
It’s been a heady year for Dinwiddie. In 59 games with the Nets during the 2016-17 season he averaged 7.3 points in 22 minutes per game, shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. And he earned a spot in the rotation to start the 2017-18 season. But early-season injuries to Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell opened the door further. This season, Dinwiddie has started 51 games for Brooklyn, averaging 13.4 points and a team-leading 6.9 assists per game.
Time in the G League kept Dinwiddie’s dream alive and helped him achieve what he had always believed was within his reach. But it wasn’t the same experience every time. Drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 2014, Dinwiddie played 19 games for the Grand Rapids Drive on assignment from the Pistons during this first two seasons.
“Every time I went to the G League, it kind of had a different connotation, different meaning, different atmosphere,” said Dinwiddie. “There were times I went on assignment for a game or two and they kind of scripted out what they wanted to see from me. In which case you’re going down there, trying to follow the script, trying to do what they say. If they say, ‘we want to see you work on getting to the elbow and pulling up and shooting jumpers,’ that’s what I would do.
“I also went on assignment in an indefinite capacity from Detroit at one point, where they’re just like, ‘just play good … just go.’ In that case, you’re working on your game, trying to prove obviously that you should be up, trying to win games because you feel more a part of the team. You’re traveling with them, you’re moving around with them. You feel more like in the G League, the camaraderie of the G League.”
That was the experience Dinwiddie had with Windy City in November 2016.
“It just shows you how many talented guys are scratching and clawing to get their dream,” said Dinwiddie. “It puts everything in perspective. Makes you grateful. But also makes you hungry and understand where you could be. Understand where you want to be. Seeing the full spectrum, it just gives you great perspective. I’m grateful for those experiences, because it kind of shaped who I am today, and I kind of like where I am.”