Brooklyn Nets: ‘Next man up’ faces real test Monday in Boston

Brooklyn Nets Theo Pinson. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Theo Pinson. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have survived multiple injuries this season because ‘next man up’ has been more than a cliche. A growing injury list puts that to the test.

If there is one constant to the Brooklyn Nets in the 2018-19 season, it is this: They are very accustomed to dealing with injuries.

The Nets (27-23) are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race thanks to a deep roster assembled by general manager Sean Marks that has survived multiple injuries all season long.

Not once in 2018-19 — regular or preseason — have the Nets had their full roster available. But by making “next man up” more than just a cool-sounding phrase to throw around a locker room and instead having that become a foundational principle of the organization, they’ve endured.

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But when they take on the Boston Celtics at TD Garden Monday night, that credo may find itself stretched to a breaking point.

In addition to Spencer Dinwiddie joining the list of players that have been inactive with long-term injuries, two other Brooklyn starters are questionable for Monday’s game.

It has been reported that Dinwiddie — a leading contender for Sixth Man of the Year honors — will undergo surgery Monday to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb and could miss up to six weeks.

Jared Dudley has been out with a hamstring injury since Jan. 9, rookie Dzanan Musa is still recovering from a Dec. 16 shoulder injury, Allen Crabbe hasn’t played since Dec. 12 with a bruised knee and Caris LeVert dislocated his foot on Nov. 12 and has not yet been cleared for a return.

But when the Nets released their preliminary injury report for Monday’s game at Boston, it included two more names: Treveon Graham and Joe Harris.

Graham has a sore lower back, while Harris has soreness in his right hip. Harris missed three games with adductor tightness in the same hip in late November and early December.

Graham has started the last seven games for Brooklyn at the 4 spot since Dudley went down.

The backcourt, if Harris can’t go, becomes particularly thin. Shabazz Napier would likely move into the starting lineup alongside D’Angelo Russell, with two-way player Theo Pinson the next guard available.

Behind him is Mitch Creek, a swingman on a 10-day contract with the Nets since Friday. DeMarre Carroll has played the 2 at times as well this season.

Without Graham, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may re-emerge as the starter at the 4. Dudley re-entered the starting unit after Hollis-Jefferson was out for seven games in late December through mid-January with a right adductor strain.

Hollis-Jefferson’s goal for Monday might be more modest: Finish a game on his feet.

RHJ left Wednesday’s win over the Orlando Magic after straining his left shoulder and had to come out in the fourth quarter Friday against the New York Knicks after opening a cut on his right cheek in a head-to-head collision with New York forward Noah Vonleh.

Hollis-Jefferson, who has missed time this season with strains in both his left and right adductor, as well as a sprained ankle, told Michael Scotto of The Athletic about the frustrating ride this season has been.

No player exemplified that “next man up” mentality more than Pinson did against the Knicks Friday night.

With Dinwiddie out for the first time all season, Napier moved into the third guard spot in the rotation with Pinson behind him.

In his eighth career NBA game, the undrafted free agent from North Carolina stepped up with career-highs of 19 points and eight rebounds and helped keep the Nets in the game with 13 second-quarter points.

Coach Kenny Atkinson told that Pinson wasn’t even in the rotation plans Friday night.

"“Didn’t originally have him in the rotation. Thought we were struggling and threw him in there and we didn’t want to take him out. Heck of a job. It’s a credit to our G League, the Long Island Nets, the job they’ve done there. Will Weaver, the head coach and all the assistants.“He’s a part of our program, did a heck of a job and didn’t skip a beat, knew everything we were doing tactically. Just a really smooth transition.”"

Pinson likely fell out of the draft last June because of suspect 3-point shooting.

He hit just 22.6 percent as a senior at North Carolina with a shorter 3-point line, but showed some promise with Brooklyn’s entry in the NBA Summer League in July and has been solid with Long Island since earning a two-way contract.

Pinson has averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in 21 games with the G League affiliate, shooting 44.4 percent overall and hitting 37.7 percent on 7.7 attempts per game from deep.

"“Confidence and I know I can shoot the ball and they encourage you to shoot here. It was something that I’ve been working all summer and every single day with (assistant coach) Shaun Fein, Will Weaver and all those guys who have helped me to this point.“I can’t thank those two enough as far as keeping us ready. We run the same stuff there (Long Island) so I’m not behind when I come here and it’s helped me out tremendously.”"

It’s the dream scenario for a seamless transition between parent and affiliate and the Nets have benefited from having the Long Island franchise available the last three seasons.

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With the Nets potentially having just nine players available in Boston on Monday, though, that “next man up” may have to get up sooner than usual.