By Brian Kotloff, NBADLeague.com
SANTA CRUZ, CALIF. — Even though the Detroit Pistons were more than 2,000 miles away, Spencer Dinwiddie said he could hear coach Stan Van Gundy’s voice in his head as he played in the NBA D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Thursday.
Focus on defense, play hard, bring energy.
“Those are the main things he tells me in practice,” Dinwiddie said.
The No. 38 pick in the NBA Draft meshed well with his new Grand Rapids Drive teammates – posting 11 points and 5 assists in the Pistons’ affiliate’s upset of the NBA D-League’s top team, the Maine Red Claws – and that was purposeful on Dinwiddie’s part.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys that comes down here and uses this as just my Showcase, ‘cause I’m a quote-unquote ‘league guy,’” he said. “All these guys have put a lot into winning these games and getting to the [No. 7] seed, and it shows on the bench with the energy.”
But, like the dozens of looked-over NBA D-League prospects who headline the event, Dinwiddie still has personal goals to check off. The college star who fell to the second round because of an ACL tear came to the league with a chip on his shoulder.
“What I’m trying to show is, I’m back,” Dinwiddie said. “I had my problems with my knee, but I’m the prospect that everybody thought I was going to be.”
It’s not just the 21-year-old’s health that should please fans in Detroit; his seamless transition to the Drive speaks to the strength of their budding relationship with the Pistons in their first year of affiliation.
Dinwiddie said he picked up Grand Rapids’ system – coached by Van Gundy’s former boss in Orlando, longtime GM Otis Smith – quickly because it was essentially Detroit’s system, with similar actions and slightly different terminology.
The affiliation gave little-used forward Luigi Datome a chance to work off rust at Showcase, as well.
“I wasn’t playing basically since last summer, so it was nice to get my rhythm back,” Datome said after scoring 15 points off the bench, including 3-of-5 shooting from three. “I’m trying to get quicker with decisions, quicker getting two dribbles and being able to release my shot as soon as I can.”