Nets’ Dariq Whitehead, Noah Clowney get loud ovation for NBA debuts

Rookies Darik Whitehead and Noah Clowney made their NBA debuts during the Nets’ 112-97 win over the Heat on Saturday. The two teens checked in to loud cheers with 2 minutes and 35 seconds left in the fourth game.

“That opportunity was about to present itself for the first time. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it,” Whitehead said. “Before we went into the game, we were told to be prepared so that before the game we were in the right mindset that this might be our first NBA game. So, when we came to the table, It was a surreal moment, but definitely one of the best that has ever happened.”

Whitehead, who is from Newark, had his family present.

After foot surgery hampered his only season at Duke, another surgery prevented him from playing in the Las Vegas Summer League and attending training camp. Finally healthy (save for a mild shin splint), Nett, the second-youngest to ever suit up, is relishing the opportunity in front of him.

Nets rookie Darik Whitehead made his NBA debut against the Heat on November 25, 2023.
USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

Nets rookie Noah Clowney made his NBA debut against the Heat on November 25, 2023.
Nets rookie Noah Clowney made his NBA debut against the Heat on November 25, 2023.

“It honestly means everything. I think a healthy Darik Whitehead can be very special,” said Whitehead, who scored his first NBA point on a free throw. “So I think if I put myself on my feet and get everything right in terms of the other issues that come with it, like shin splints and all that stuff, I think I’ll be 100 percent okay and ready to go. For sure. I feel better. My legs aren’t an issue anymore. Being out for 7 months makes other things even more of an issue. I can only get through things like shin splints and calf pain. So I… I’m just getting over that progression now.”

Derrick Favors (19 years, 104 days) is the youngest player in Net history, just ahead of Whitehead (19 years, 116 days) and Clowney (19 years, 134 days).

Clowney was selected 21st and Whitehead 22nd in the draft.

“that [ovation was] wonderful. ‘Cause I don’t think they were really into me after Summer League,” Clowney said. “But now? Yes, it was great. Actually, it was great. Great reaction. I was really happy.”



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