Spencer Dinwiddie walked through the Lakers’ El Segundo practice facility on Sunday behind his son Elijah when it really hit him.
For the Los Angeles native and former Taft High star, signing with the Lakers was a childhood dream, but the gravity of the moment hadn’t totally hit, even when the Lakers hung two jerseys inside of his new locker — one for him and one for Elijah.
But as the 5-year-old scampered through Dinwiddie’s new office, it smacked him in the face.
“I was behind him and I was looking at ‘Dinwiddie 26’ and I was like, ‘Oh, damn.’ Like, ‘It’s real.’ You feel me?” Dinwiddie said Monday. “And for your son to be the reason you feel like it’s real, that was a really special moment.’
Homecomings aren’t always perfect — the Lakers’ last one with Russell Westbrook ended poorly — but something about playing here for this team at this moment appealed to Dinwiddie. After being traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Toronto Raptors and then waived, he became the de facto best available free agent.
The Lakers hosted Dinwiddie on Friday after he met with the Dallas Mavericks the night before in New York. He arrived to watch the Lakers’ victory over the New Orleans Pelicans without having made a decision.
He spoke with his former teammates and friends on the Lakers, guys such as Christian Wood, Taurean Prince and Rui Hachimura, as he measured the vibe.
Ultimately, though, it was about something else.
“The two situations kinda felt like this, right? Let’s say you were a kid and you got your ass whooped by the bully. Dallas would’ve been like your momma being like, ‘It’s OK, baby. Don’t worry about it.’ Lakers are like your dad: ‘Nah, you better go out there and fight till you win.’ You feel me?” Dinwiddie said. “And I just felt like that was what I needed at the time. You feel me? So I’m a big believer in kind of doing what you need to do at whatever time it is. So that’s how I felt about it.”
Dinwiddie averaged 12.6 points in 48 games with the Nets this season before being traded last Thursday. With the Nets, he shot 28.9% on three-pointers last season and 32% this season. But in his previous stop, playing alongside one of the league’s best passers in Luka Doncic, he shot 40.4% from deep.
“Obviously the thing I haven’t done well throughout my career is shoot off the dribble, contested, poor shot quality threes. In some situations I’ve been forced to do some of that in a higher percentage that good looks,” he said. “So it affected overall percentage and sometimes it becomes a misnomer. So the better quality looks and the more good quality looks versus bad quality looks, I have the utmost confidence in being a big-time shot-maker for this team.”
Coach Darvin Ham says he thinks Dinwiddie can add to the Lakers on both ends of the court.
“Man, great on-ball defense, great defense overall, playmaking, shotmaking, and just another positive, productive spirit to our group,” Ham said of Dinwiddle. “He’s going to acclimate himself really, really well, really soon. Just told him don’t worry about making mistakes. We’ll help talk him through it.”
Ham also said he thought Dinwiddie could play alongside Lakers starting guards Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.
“His size, he can guard bigger wings. So if we have to finish the game with those three, he’s definitely more than capable of doing that,” Ham said. “We will look at some lineups with the three of those guys, along with [Le]Bron [James] and AD [Anthony Davis]. But I think he complements them well. You know, he can defend, he can pass, he can dribble, he can shoot.”
Diniwddie should get a major opportunity in the Lakers’ last two games before the All-Star break with Max Christie, Cam Reddish and Gabe Vincent all absent from the backcourt mix because of injuries.
“I just think with our system, I’m careful not to judge anyone based on what they’re doing somewhere else,” Ham said. “I know what he’s capable of doing. I know what we have around him, what we’re able to put around him.
“And I think he’s gonna thrive.”