EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — After completing his first practice with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, Spencer Dinwiddie walked off the court and explained to a throng of reporters why he chose to come to L.A. rather than the Dallas Mavericks after being traded to the Toronto Raptors, and subsequently waived last week.
“The two situations kind of felt like this: Let’s say you were a kid and you got your ass whupped by the bully,” Dinwiddie said. “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 ’til you win.’ You feel me? And I just felt like that was what I needed at the time.
“I’m a big believer in kind of doing what you need to do at whatever time it is.”
Dinwiddie was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to Toronto at the deadline, waived and then cleared waivers Saturday afternoon, opening the door for him to sign for the $1.55 million remaining portion of the Lakers’ non-tax mid-level exception for the rest of the season.
Returning to Dallas would have been the path of least resistance. He was traded there in February 2022 and helped the team reach the Western Conference finals, teaming with star Luka Doncic and coach Jason Kidd to upset the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the second round by scoring 30 points in Game 7 on Phoenix’s home court.
Coming to the Lakers with a coach in Darvin Ham whom he’s never played for, a star in the 39-year-old LeBron James who is trying to orchestrate another Finals run and a fanbase that isn’t satisfied by anything short of a championship is more of a pressure cooker.
Add in the fact that, as an L.A. native, he’ll have personal expectations to perform for the hometown team he grew up cheering for and it’s abundantly clear that nothing about this career decision for the 10-year veteran will fly under the radar.
And he’s more than OK with that.
“Essentially you’re seeing a team that when everything is on the line, they can rise to a level that no other team can get to,” Dinwiddie said. “They won the in-season tournament, have played bigtime basketball the past several years. Obviously sometimes it’s hard to maintain that throughout a whole season but at the end of the day, they know how to win. That’s what you know. Every night they’re going to get somebody’s best shot just because the name that’s on the front of the uniform.”
Dinwiddie attended the Lakers’ win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and sat with Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka during the game. He said Pelinka made a strong impression on him by making the first phone call he received after he was waived by Toronto and the vibe felt right being around the Lakers, helping him make his decision.
However, it wasn’t until Dinwiddie’s son, Elijah, got to try on his dad’s No. 26 gold uniform made special for him in a child’s size by the Lakers when Dinwiddie first visited the practice facility Sunday that it all set in for him.
“He had put [the jersey] on and he was running down the corridor and I was behind him and I was looking at ‘Dinwiddie 26’ and I was like, ‘Oh, damn.’ Like, ‘It’s real,'” Dinwiddie said. “And for your son to be the reason you feel like it’s real, that was a really special moment.”
Dinwiddie will be available to play against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday and Ham, who spent Sunday conducting an individual film session with the 6-6 combo guard and teaching him the basic terminology L.A. uses on its play calls, made it clear he will play him right away. Especially considering Max Christie (right ankle), Gabe Vincent (left knee), Cam Reddish (left knee) and Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot) are all out until after the All-Star break at least, according to the team.
“He’s going to acclimate himself really, really well, really soon,” Ham said. “Just told him, ‘Don’t worry about making mistakes’. We’ll help talk him through it.”
While Dinwiddie has no experience playing with the Lakers, he does have preexisting ties to several members of the team. He was on the Brooklyn Nets with D’Angelo Russell, Taurean Prince and assistant coach Jordan Ott, he played for the Washington Wizards with Rui Hachimura and he played with Christian Wood on the Mavericks.
But he made it clear that Wood wasn’t the most influential voice he was listening to when he chose L.A.
“How the hell we going to give C-Wood the credit? Bro, what are we doing?” Dinwiddie said with a laugh. “Look, C-Wood was impactful. … I’m giving the credit to Bron.”