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Lakers newsletter: Deciphering Spencer Dinwiddie’s postgame thoughts

Spencer Dinwiddie sits on the bench before a game last month.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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Hello everyone, this is Dan Woike and welcome back to the L.A. Times’ Lakers Newsletter, where I’m maybe a little bit jealous to not be writing from South Korea like our Dodgers’ coverage team. Alas, I get Indianapolis next week instead.

This week, I wanted to try and take you inside one of my favorite interviews of the season — a media scrum we had with Spencer Dinwiddie.

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A writer’s commentary

Monday morning after the Lakers had a workout, we spoke to guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Always known as a smart, independent thinker around NBA circles, we’ve slowly gotten to know Dinwiddie since the team added him after the NBA trade deadline via the buyout market.

(I had a small head start. Years ago in my role as a national NBA writer, I wrote about Dinwiddie and his sights on being a disruptor in the sneaker space. You can read it here).

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While the conversation was a good one, touching on a bunch of different stuff, including Kyrie Irving’s incredible game-winner from Sunday, let’s focus and deconstruct a couple of his most interesting answers.

He was asked about the line between wanting to fit in and not wanting to be passive.

“Again, I mean, I have great teammates. Credit to them. But like I said, there wasn’t a huge vacuum created by a trade or something and I was stepping into 20-30, whatever, possessions or something of that nature. As you see, some games it’s 0-for-3, some games it’s three-for-three. So, sometimes, in terms of the sexy stuff, it’s hard to glean anything from that. Last game, obviously, percentage wise was great. But I think more so than anything, you’re going to have to see my impact in defense, effort, plus-minus, connectivity and stuff like that. Making the extra pass. Those dot-connecting plays are probably where I’m going to be integrated, obviously, more so, first and foremost. And then depending on which lineups are used - who is in? Who is out? If we have, God forbid, any injuries or something of that nature then some of that other stuff opens up.”

Dinwiddie’s actually led the Lakers in plus/minus since joining the team. He’s a plus-65 in 15 games, four points ahead of Anthony Davis and nine points ahead of LeBron James. He wasn’t really defensive as he explained his role, but you could tell he wanted to make it clear how he was mattering.

He was later asked about how proud he was to lead the team in plus/minus despite averaging less than five points per game.

“Yeah of course. I think, to be completely candid, the best team I was on, so far, the farthest I’ve gone was conference finals with Dallas. We had a guy that started for us, Reggie Bullock. He would pick up 94, sometimes he’d go 0-for-3, sometimes he’s three-for-three from three or whatever. One of the things he talked about was just giving that effort, picking up 94 regardless. Obviously, I don’t necessarily pick up 94. But when you talk about plus/minus, impacting and he helped us a lot. He did the sacrificial things on that team that allowed Luka and myself and Jalen to have fun and basically just ISO everybody every play. And you know, he may or may not touch it for five times in a row. Same way with the Dorian Finney-Smith’s of the world and Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell’s. Those types of guys are what make a team really special. Obviously, you do need the generational LeBron, Luka-level talent. But after that, you are going to need, whether it’s four-through-15 or three-through-15 to be like just locked in, focused, dedicated to the goal. Dot connectors. Sacrificial in mindset and nature. And it doesn’t mean ‘not aggressive.’ It just means like, ‘Hey, you may have to swing-swing and give up one of your looks.’ You may only shoot four times. But if you can continue to try to take charges, try to be in the right position, all of this stuff, you guys can go far.”

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(Let’s jump in here — Dinwiddie is articulating the value of role players to winning. A job he hasn’t really had.)

“Like I said, it is technically foreign for me from what I’ve done in my career. I feel so sometimes like I’m in a Reggie Bullock role getting graded on a Spencer scale sometimes. Where as on a Reggie Bullock scale — no shot, again, that’s my dog, like I said, he was great for us — I feel like I’m doing really well. On a Spencer scale, obviously, I’m doing [poor]. But like, I’m also not in that Spencer position either, you feel me? I came here understanding some of that was going to happen, right? I’m in good spirits and a good space. I wish we would’ve won a couple more games that we dropped. But overall, the house isn’t on fire in my mind. If you gave me 20 attempts or whatever, I’d go out there and score 30. Like, as y’all have seen throughout my career, that’s not lacking anything. You’d see more dunks and step-back threes and all the other fun stuff you’re accustomed to seeing from me.”

We can forgive ‘“Spencer scale” as a phrase, and as someone who has covered Reggie Bullock for the entirety of his NBA career, I’ve got a soft spot. (Plus, that guy has had such a long NBA career, he bought himself a private island. Google it!) But, like Spencer said, I don’t think this was a shot. And while I’m maybe a little skeptical about Dinwiddie’s scoring after he basically quit shooting in Brooklyn, I think there’s been genuine acceptance of the Bullock role. It was illuminating, though, to see a player so openly address how outside forces value players and how it can affect someone.

So we asked, as he looks to what’s next, what role he sees for himself?

“That’s kind of a loaded question. I mean, obviously, the way [things] shook out in Brooklyn kind of put me more so in this box than maybe like my game being in that box. It’s not like I’m 35 or coming off injury or washed or anything. I mean, last year, I believe I was the most efficient isolation player in the playoffs. In the second half of the season, after going to Brooklyn, I was like top five in assists. I led the league in assists in I think the month of March. When I was co-starting with Luka, we were like the fourth, fifth seed in the West, you know? Like, I’m one of them guys. Let’s not get it twisted. But I also understand being a part of a bigger unit. Like, I’ve been the No. 1 option on a Brooklyn team, averaged 21 (points per game). Played with a generational star in Luka and been like, ‘Oh, hey, like, I’m probably not gonna average 20-plus.’ But I still might have average 17, 18, and be the second guy and do this, that and the third because this is where I’m at. Then also being the third guy if JB (Jalen Brunson) is cooking. Or, obviously, now, fitting into a group that already has a lot of established roles, talent, etc. And saying, ‘Hey, I’ll do this.’ But in terms of can I go out there and cook people? Of course. So would I rather be cooking or chasing people 94 [feet[? I mean, who wouldn’t rather be cooking? Like, most people that chase 94, it’s cause they can’t cook like that. It just so happens that, luckily enough, God blessed me with me the athleticism to do both.”

There’s no shortage of confidence, and conceding to a life of being a role player requires a hefty ego adjustment. It’s probably why so many players struggle with it. The most important thing here is ‘“Hey, I’ll do this.” He’s totally bought into what the Lakers have asked. As far as his ability to cook, there are going to be a moment or two where the Lakers need him to get into that part of his bag. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s there. But I love how he doesn’t doubt that the offense-first part of his game is merely sitting on ice.

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Song of the Week

“Say Goodbye” by Future Islands

Speaking of people who can just go out there and cook…

In case you missed it

Anthony Davis plays and Lakers overcome shaky start in blowout win over Hawks

Why would Kobe Bryant’s dad auction NBA championship ring the Lakers legend gifted him?

Shot-clock craziness and an Anthony Davis injury plague Lakers’ loss to Warriors

Plaschke: No Anthony Davis? Struggling Lakers have no chance if he’s out

Darvin Ham staying positive ahead of critical stretch for Lakers

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Anthony Davis and Lakers bullied, beaten by Sacramento Kings, again

‘Can’t skip details’: Lakers left to look for solutions after another loss to Kings

Johnny Buss, brother of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, is running for president

Why did the ‘King of Collectibles’ cast doubt on their million-dollar LeBron James card?

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!

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