Dorian Finney-Smith is helping the undersized Nets survive while starting center Nic Claxton recovers from a sprained ankle, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. At 6’7″ and 220 pounds, Finney-Smith has been fearless while battling larger opponents in the middle.
“He’s just really stepped up to the challenge,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “What I’ve seen from him is his ability to compete. The majority of nights when he’s at the five, the dude that’s standing next to him is going to be taller than him, and a lot of the times bigger and stronger than him. And so his fight has been the first thing that needs to be acknowledged. His rebounding, his ability for us to use him to get a rebound and bust-out dribble … that’s an advantage for us.”
Lewis notes that Vaughn’s other option was to rely on backup center Day’Ron Sharpe, who’s more physically suited for the position. But Sharpe can’t space the floor on offense and he forces the defense to rely on drop coverage, which Vaughn wants to limit. Finney-Smith is a non-traditional answer until Claxton returns, but it’s working so far.
“I challenged our group,” Vaughn said. “I said that Doe is playing out of position, and I challenged them to come back and help this dude. He’s guarding bigger dudes every night. You cannot leave him by himself. So our group took that to heart.”
There’s more from Brooklyn:
- Ben Simmons has looked more like his old self in the early part of the season, observes Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today. With injury issues reportedly behind him, Simmons has been more mobile and aggressive, and he’s putting up stat lines that are starting to resemble his All-Star past. “The past 24 months, not really having the ability to get on the court, it gave people a reason to pile on, and it gave them ammunition,” said his agent, Bernie Lee. “He wasn’t physically ready to play and was under so much pressure to make an attempt to do it, and buying into a narrative with his competitive nature, he wanted to get back on court and quiet detractors. Having the ability to take a step back and have more time to complete rehab for his back has been cathartic and he has invested in the work. He has taken perspective (of) his own place in life, his career and with this team.”
- First-round pick Dariq Whitehead tells Jordan Greene of Nets Daily that he feels 75% to 80% in his recovery from offseason foot surgery. The 19-year-old forward is progressing toward his season debut with the team’s G League affiliate in Long Island. “Once I feel like I have complete control on how my legs feel, which should be another two weeks, I’ll be good to go,” Whitehead said.
- The shorthanded Nets got some reinforcements on Friday when Spencer Dinwiddie and Dennis Smith Jr. both returned from injuries, Lewis adds in another story for the Post.