Nets rookie Cam Thomas learning on the job
First-rounder getting his initial taste of NBA action in Vegas
While Nets general manager Sean Marks continues to stockpile talent via trades, free agency and re-signing key players to help Brooklyn to its first-ever NBA title, his initial pick in last month’s draft appears to be a keeper as well.
Cam Thomas, selected 27th overall by the Nets on July 29th at Downtown’s Barclays Center, scored a team-high 19 points in Brooklyn’s Summer League opener Monday, a 91-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at the Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Thomas, who led the Southeastern Conference in scoring as a freshman sensation at Louisiana State last season, hit 6-of-16 shots, including one 3-pointer, and handed out a pair of assists while committing two turnovers in nearly 25 minutes off the bench in his first taste of NBA action.
“My first pro game. I didn’t play in the G-League like some of these guys or play in the pros,” said Thomas, who spelled veteran starters like Alize Johnson, Reggie Perry and Brandon Knight during his summer debut.
“You know, this is my first pro game, so I’m just getting a feel for everything, came off the bench. So I just had to get a rhythm, get a flow for everything. Once I got a nice rhythm, I felt like I was pretty, you know, just basketball from there on.”
Thomas’ fellow first-rounder, Day’Ron Sharpe, a hulking center out of North Carolina, managed six points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot in 14 minutes.
But it was Thomas who nearly helped Brooklyn erase an early 16-point deficit, putting the Nets up 77-76 by draining his lone 3-ball at the shot-clock buzzer with 3:27 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Though the Nets surrendered that advantage and the game, Thomas, who averaged 23 points per contest during his lone collegiate campaign, hardly looked out of place running the floor in a professional environment.
But he’s also well aware that there is plenty he hasn’t experienced yet as an NBA player entering his second Summer League contest Wednesday afternoon vs. the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
“I just want to come in and learn as much as possible so I can contribute right away, whether that’s right away or later in the season — whenever my name is called,” said Thomas.
The 19-year-old shooting guard, who was born in Japan, where teammate Kevin Durant recently grabbed his record-tying third gold medal in men’s basketball, will have plenty of mentors once he gets back to Brooklyn.
Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Blake Griffin will doubtlessly impart their collective and indivdual wisdom on Thomas, who is eager to learn from the best as they pursue our borough’s first major pro sports title since 1955.
“So I just want to learn from those guys and have them coach them up and teach me as much as they can so I can have the ability to contribute whenever my name is called,” Thomas noted.
“So hopefully it’s at the beginning of the year, but if it’s later, I just want to do my job to be ready.”
His general manager agrees.
“Cam first and foremost, incredible scorer, shooter, really enjoyed getting to know him and I think he’s a fit with what we’re doing moving forward,” Marks said.
NOTHING BUT NET: While Thomas continues to get his feet wet at the pro level, the Nets are already moving toward the 2021-22 season. Brooklyn released its four-game preseason schedule for next year on Tuesday. The Nets will open Oct. 3 at Los Angeles’ Staples Center vs. LeBron James and the Lakers before hosting Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Oct. 8. On Oct. 11, the Nets will visit Philadelphia and will close out the exhibition slate Oct. 14 vs. Minnesota here in Downtown Brooklyn. Tickets for the Oct. 8 and Oct. 14 home games at Barclays Center go will go on sale at a later date. To be notified when single game tickets go on sale and to learn about season ticket membership options, visit brooklynnets.com or call 718-NETS-TIX. YES Network will have coverage of all four contests as it begins its 20th season broadcasting Nets Basketball. … Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 13 points apiece in Monday’s loss.