Things could not have been getting much better for the Brooklyn Nets.
Since Dec. 7, the seemingly perennial minnows of the Eastern Conference have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA as they’ve won 19 of their last 24 games.
That has included a current six-game winning streak which was extended on Friday night with a 109-99 victory over the crosstown-rival Knicks.
The weekend did provide some bad news, however, after it was discovered that star sixth-man and point guard Spencer Dinwiddie opted to undergo surgery on a thumb injury that will keep him out between three-to-six weeks.
Dinwiddie had been playing with torn ligaments in his right thumb for months, which had been known by the organization. What wasn’t known was whether or not he was able to play the entire season through such pain.
It was more than a valiant effort from the 25-year-old, who is in the midst of a career season with the surprising Nets.
Behind the resurgent D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie is averaging a career-high 17.2 points and five assists per game despite starting just four times in Brooklyn’s first 49 outings of the season.
His emergence has created one of the best point-guard duos in the league, as Russell is posting 19.2 points and 6.4 assists per game.
Now facing an extended period of time without Dinwiddie, it looks as though the Nets will turn to Shabazz Napier to fill in behind Russell for now.
While he’s been lost in the shuffle behind Brooklyn’s dynamic duo, Napier has been plenty serviceable for head coach Kenny Atkinson as he’s averaging a career-high nine points per game in 16.7 minutes of action.
The 27-year-old UConn product provides another reclamation product for Atkinson, who has built a reputation of getting the best out of his point guards.
As an assistant, he helped Aaron Brooks win Most Improved Player in 2010 with the Houston Rockets before sparking Lin-Sanity with Jeremy Lee and the Knicks. He further pushed the narrative in Atlanta and brought the best out of Jeff Teague with the Hawks. Now he can add Russell and Dinwiddie to his list of disciples.
Holding the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Nets don’t have much leeway to initially struggle without Dinwiddie, which does put some pressure on Napier’s performance.
If he is not viewed as a viable backup to Russell while Dinwiddie recovers, the Nets could explore the trade market before the NBA’s deadline on Feb. 7.
Among initial candidates for a move could be Knicks backup point guard Trey Burke, who has been made available by New York for a second-round pick.
The Nets, along with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers were listed by the New York Post’s Marc Berman as potential suitors.