Spencer Dinwiddie’s Injury Totally Sucks: How Colorado Can Save Its SeasonPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 15th, 2014
Ever since Spencer Dinwiddie went down in a heap late in the first half Sunday afternoon and had to be carried by teammates from the floor; ever since we saw the normally stoic veteran guard team leader in tears; ever since head coach Tad Boyle confirmed our instinct to be very concerned by saying this was probably “not good”; we’ve all been careful to avoid speculation. We’ve seen before when injuries looked real bad at the time, but then upon closer inspection were not quite as horrible as feared. Still, in the back of our minds lingered three dreaded letters that we tried not to think, much less say, or write. Unfortunately on Monday Colorado’s worst fears were confirmed with those three letters: ACL. Done for the year. Surgery coming soon. Grueling minutes and hours and days and weeks and months of rehabilitation ahead. Unkind. Unfair. And plenty of well-deserved other curses that you’ll just have to imagine.
This sucks, to use a technical term. It sucks when it happens to anyone. It sucks when it happens to some scrub down at the local gym having fun on the weekend. It sucks when it happens to Jernard Jarreau two minutes into the season. It sucks when it happens to Andy Brown four times before the young man is even 23 years old. And it sucks when it happens to a guy like Dinwiddie at the top of his game, a key player that his Colorado team has come to rely on, a guy who seemed to have an NBA future waiting as early as next season. That NBA future still awaits, as Dinwiddie is a gifted, skilled, hard-working and intelligent athlete who will no doubt put in the requisite blood, sweat and tears to come back from this fate, but damn, this still sucks.
While our thoughts and the thoughts of his teammates go out to Dinwiddie, the season moves on unrelentingly, as the Buffaloes will turn around and host UCLA Thursday night. So, what’s next for Colorado? Unfortunately, no obvious single answer exists. Sophomores Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer both have point guard histories, but it looks unlikely that either of those guys is ready to step full-time into Dinwiddie’s shoes. Jaron Hopkins was supposed to be the point guard of the future, but ideally, he would have had at least another couple of months and then a full offseason to build into that role; he may now need to take over the reins of the team much earlier. The good news is that, between the three of them, they can share the role and they’ll have veteran guard Askia Booker, who is a good ball-handler and underrated play-maker in his own right, alongside to help share the load.
And, that’s precisely what must happen from here on out for the Buffs — sharing the load. Dinwiddie leaves behind a huge hole, as not only is he the team’s floor general, but he’s also its leading in minutes and scoring as well as a terrific perimeter defender. Whoever is on the court in his stead needs to ease into their new role, not trying to do everything at once, but allowing talented teammates to help carry on in Dinwiddie’s absence. Sophomore Josh Scott needs more touches and the guards and wings need to make it a priority to find him in the half-court offense. Freshman Wesley Gordon needs to assert himself more by going and getting the ball when possible. And Xavier Johnson will need to welcome additional possessions, as he’ll certainly be called on to score more from here out.
While Booker has gladly taken on the role of instant offense, perhaps now more than ever, he might be wise to dial down his own offense in lieu of building confidence for his teammates. We know he’s a potent, high-usage scorer, but with the hyper-efficient Dinwiddie no longer there to balance out his freewheeling ways, he needs to help the Buffs find good shots on the regular in the half-court offense. He may not have proven that he knows exactly what a good shot looks like himself, but you can bet he knows what it looks like for others. While the Buffs will still find end-of-shot-clock and -game situations when they’ll need Booker’s gunning style, it is more important to get Scott and Johnson and Hopkins used to taking on bigger roles.
In the end, and again, this sucks, but here’s the big picture: You don’t just lose an all-conference performer who is arguably the most valuable player to his team and roll on like nothing ever happened. There is still enough talent on this Colorado squad for an upper-division Pac-12 finish and an eventual NCAA Tournament appearance. But being able to get through that first weekend of the Tournament and into the Sweet Sixteen? You don’t want to count out a good team like the Buffs this early in the season, but man, it is awful hard to picture this team being able to make a March run without Dinwiddie. Again. This sucks.