Dennis Schröder had only 30 or so hours to get acclimated to life with the Nets. The German point guard, who was acquired by Brooklyn from the Toronto Raptors ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, had barely practiced with the team. New schemes. New terminologies. Those kinds of adjustments, at a moment’s notice, can be a lot for any player to handle.
The 30-year-old has not even settled on a new home.
“Yeah, I’m in the hotel, got my computer up, playing a lot of Call of Duty right now because my family isn’t here,” Schröder said. “But my son’s birthday is tomorrow and I don’t miss birthday’s like that. So I’m going to fly back to see my son, my wife, my two other kids, spend time with them and then I’m going to come back for practice on Monday.”
But if you do not follow the NBA closely, none of that would have seemed relevant, given Schröder’s production in his debut performance. He finished with 15 points and 12 assists in the Nets’ 123-103 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs at Barclays Center, seamlessly transitioning into his new role in Brooklyn.
What Schröder brings to the Nets’ roster became evident the moment he checked into the game midway through the first quarter. He played with pace, made quick decisions. He played frenetic defense on and off the ball. His toughness and physicality were on full display while battling in the post with taller, stronger matchups.
Schröder, known more for his speed off the dribble than his 3-point shooting, went 3-of-5 from deep in the win, hosting shots with supreme confidence. His presence allowed head coach Jacque Vaughn to experiment with some ultra-small lineups when San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama was off the court, most notably a five-man unit of Schröder, Dennis Smith Jr., Cam Thomas, Jalen Wilson and 6-7 Dorian Finney-Smith at the 5.
Schröder, who was on a minutes restriction in his first game as a Net, finished plus-10 in 27 minutes. His court vision and tenacity certainly stood out, and while there are still many games ahead, swapping Spencer Dinwiddie for him at the trade deadline appears to be a win for all parties involved.
“I think overall he was able to show his ability to be a point guard on the floor, whether that was getting plays from me on the fly, whether that was organizing and getting our group into good sets. And just the overall feel of understanding the flow of the game, what’s needed.
“You saw his ability to have a toughness about him, whether that was guarding Wemby, whether that was guarding other perimeter guys. And just the IQ piece, that’s going to be very important for our group going forward.”
Schröder’s gives Brooklyn’s backcourt an element that has been absent all season long. Instant impact is the only way to describe it. Only James Harden (14) and Kevin Porter (13) had more assists in their Nets debuts.
“It’s great to have another point guard that’s strictly a point guard,” Ben Simmons said. “He sees things differently, wants to mentor guys and communicates well. But he has a lot of experience. So he plays the game, he has a great feel for the game. I think he fits really well with us.”
With 3:49 left in regulation, with the Nets leading 114-88, fans inside Barclays Center began to chant Schröder’s name. Debut performances do not get much better than that.
“This was a great night for me,” Schröder said. “I mean, getting the W and the fans screaming my name. My teammates were very happy and very welcoming.”
Brooklyn snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s win and improved to 21-31 this season.
Thomas finished with a game-high 25 points with five treys, while Nic Claxton added 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 11 rebounds, his 20th double-double of the season. Wembanyama had a team-high 21 points for San Antonio.
The Nets’ other recent addition, Keita Bates-Diop, played the final 3:40 of regulation, finishing with a bucket. And he likely will not see the court much going forward if rookie forward Jalen Wilson continues his stellar play.
Wilson, in his 14th appearance with Brooklyn this season, continues to make a strong case for why he belongs at the NBA level and not the G League over the final stretches of the regular season. He had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting with six rebounds and two assists. He was plus-14 in 30 minutes.
“He knows how to play. He knows the things that it takes to win basketball games,” Dennis Smith Jr. said of Wilson. “When I came in it was more so harika talented. I was trying to learn that. He came in already with that mentality… He’s just all about that. He’s a dog.”
Lonnie Walker IV, who was also on a minutes restriction Saturday, played just six minutes in his return from a two-game absence.
Another notable takeaway from Saturday’s game? The aggression of Simmons in his third straight start. His 13 points scored set a new season high. He had more shot attempts (seven) than assists (five).
The Nets will return to action on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics, the first game of a back-to-back set between Barclays Center and TD Garden — Brooklyn’s final two games before the All-Star break.