The Nets have had four players score 40 or more points in a game this season. That had never happened before in NBA history. Mikal Bridges broke the 40-point barrier once, Kyrie Irving did it twice, and two players, Kevin Durant and Cam Thomas, did it three times. And Thomas, of course, did it in spectacular fashion at 44, 47 and 43 in three straight games over four nights with KD injured and Kyrie waiting on him.
“There’s no question about it. I feel like I have all the tools, the mindset and the mindset to be one of the dominant scorers in the NBA,” Thomas told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears recently. “I have the tools and the mindset, but everything it’s about the opportunity. Once I get the opportunity, I’ve shown that I can do it.”
And yet, the 21-year-old Thomas doesn’t start for the Nets, but instead comes off the bench to get the necessary buckets. On Wednesday, before Bridges exploded in the second half, it was Thomas who provided the offensive spark for Brooklyn, and he ultimately scored 19 points in 21 minutes, his 3-of-5 shooting from deep putting him above 40% for the game. season.
His coach likes what he sees from Thomas.
“I think it’s an ideal image,” Jacque Vaughn said of Thomas’ game. “For him to come off the bench and get the attention that he got, to be able to make shots for us, to be able to create for us.
“It was a bit of a lull in our offense before it registered, and he has the ability to create shots for us, so we really needed him tonight. I thought he was composed. I thought he used every possession and was pretty efficient with it, making the right decisions, which is growth for him.
“So definitely more than we wanted to see.”
Thomas not so much. He got behind the microphone after the game looking unhappy and then proceeded to confirm it. After saying that he’s just doing his job, Thomas admitted that he’s having a hard time adjusting to his new role, apparently believing that his 40-piece streak should have gotten him onto the court in the jump ball.
“It’s tough,” Thomas said of adjusting to his new niche after shooting 6-of-11 and 3-of-5 from deep. “To do one thing and try to adapt to the team because that’s just what you have to do. It sure is tough.
“So I have to figure it out… Coach is still trying to figure it all out, so I don’t know,” Thomas said when asked if it looks like he will come off the bench for the rest of the year. “I don’t have the answer for you.”
Of course, how much of Thomas’s lack of enthusiasm is simply his now famous stoic, “not funny shit” persona. How much is impatience? As she told Spears, it’s about her serious approach to her basketball, her “Mamba Mentality.”
“Most people see me when I’m not smiling,” Thomas said. “My teammates see me off the court joking and laughing. i guess it is [a] narrative output [on] I… I feel like when I’m inside the lines or on the bench, there’s nothing to smile about. I’m at work. I have to take it seriously. That’s how I’ve been all my life.
“Nothing is fun when I play basketball. That’s why I take myself seriously. I want to be perfect at everything and know what I’m doing when I get out.”
Thomas has fans among the best players in the league. Both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took him under his wing and Devin Booker told Spears that he likes what he sees.
“Really special. He’s someone I’ve been watching since college. The short stints he had, the short chances, that’s what it’s all about. Getting the chance and taking it. I was in a similar situation where you’re young and you can playing with mistakes. It’s just been amazing.”
The other thing is that while some fans see a surly 21-year-old unhappy with his minutes, others, including his coach, see an ambitious young player fueled by self-confidence and pride. Cam Thomas knows he’s good and he wants to show it.
“Everyone knows that I can do this,” Thomas told Spears. “But I’m trying to show everyone again that I’m very capable of doing this from my high school resume, EYBL, AAU, all of that stuff. I am very capable of that. I had to show everyone that this is not a fluke. And I think I have been.”
Said Vaughn: “I don’t think he ever got to a position where he doubted himself. For us as a group and organization, we never doubted him.”
Thomas has surpassed where he was drafted, at No. 27, in 2021. There’s no question about that. It’s not just the 40-point game series that has set him apart. In the 16 games in which he has played 20 minutes or more, he averages more than 22 points per game. His season record also includes a 33-point game against the Pacers with virtually the entire rotation resting. For the month of February, he is averaging 26.6 points on 49/43/90 shooting.
The Chesapeake, Va., product is still learning other aspects of the game and there have been dramatic improvements to his passing, but the name of the game is buckets and no matter what you want to say about Cam Thomas, he’s a bucket waiting. happen