Despite losing to the Rockets in their preseason opener on Tuesday night, there were some positives the Wizards could take from the game, perhaps none more important than the performance of Spencer Dinwiddie. His stat-line may not jump off the box score - 14 points and five assists in 21 minutes - but it was his first game back from surgery in January to repair a partially torn ACL and he looked every bit the player he was before suffering the injury.
Dinwiddie, 28, is only nine months removed from the procedure, yet he was able to play in the preseason opener with no limitations. He was weaving through Houston's defense and getting to the rim just as he did during his best days in Brooklyn.
"I guess I could use the old cliché, it was like riding a bike... I wasn’t anxious about my knee," Dinwiddie said. "It was more so a bit of excitement and an appreciation for being out here. I haven’t played a major role on a team since, what, March of 2019, right? Since the shutdown. So, there was a certain level of just being very, very grateful more than anything."
When the Wizards signed Dinwiddie to a three-year deal worth $54 million in August, he hadn't been cleared to play in 5-on-5 scrimmages. But since training camp began last week, he has operated without restrictions.
It is now to the point head coach Wes Unseld Jr. believes his rehab is essentially over for all intents and purposes.
"He looked terrific. In all honesty, I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen him in live action, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. No ill effects, he practices every day, he’s in every live segment," Unseld Jr. said.
"So, I give him a lot of credit. He looks ready, his conditioning looks great. As far as I’m concerned, he’s back to normal. I know that’s a judgement for the medical people, but today he doesn’t seem to have any ill effects on him at all."
Certainly, the Wizards' medical staff will weigh in on the matter, but at this point there do not appear to be any more significant hurdles for Dinwiddie to get over. Perhaps the Wizards will keep his minutes in check early in the regular season, or limit him in back-to-backs as they usually do with players returning from injury.
But for the sake of the team's outlook, it does not appear that Dinwiddie's recovery will be a major factor when the season starts. That would back up his assessment over the summer about this being a more manageable rehab compared to most ACL surgeries given his was only partially torn.
With his first live game in the books, Dinwiddie was able to take stock of the journey he traveled to get here, even if it was completed ahead of schedule. He had spent some time with his three-year-old son before the game and marveled at how much he had changed during the months he was recovering.
"In that reflecting, I definitely thought about the rehab process, just how different he is in the eight months from when it started to now and everything that has happened during that time. It’s been a lot," Dinwiddie said.