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There’s no doubting Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas

Talented first-round pick leads Summer League in scoring

August 18, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Nets rookie Cam Thomas didn’t even play in Brooklyn’s Summer League finale in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, an uneventful 86-72 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Cox Pavillion.

That didn’t prevent the 19-year-old shooting guard from being the talk of Sin City during the mini-tournament for rookies, second-year players and veterans looking for another shot at the NBA.

Thomas finished with a tournament-best 27 points per contest, including an eye-popping 36 points in the Nets’ 104-100 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

The leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference last year during his lone campaign at Louisiana State University, Thomas also went to the free-throw line nearly 10 times per game during his four-game foray into the pros.

The scoring touch and the grittiness around the basket gave Thomas the inside track on being the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft after Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks selected him with the 27th overall pick last month at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Thomas doesn’t figure to light up the scoreboard at Barclays right away next season, especially with the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden back in the fold for another run at our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.

But Thomas hasn’t been the least bit interested in analyzing his draft stock or figuring out he will fit in with the Big Three.

Instead, the recently signed first-year sharpshooter is doing what he always has: putting the ball in the basket.

“It’s just confidence, I have a lot of confidence,” Thomas said following Sunday’s game. “Confidence … that’s my best friend, right there.”

Marks must have known something when he swept in and took Thomas two picks ahead of Brooklyn’s other first-rounder, Day’Ron Sharpe, who displayed his toughness and rebounding ability during the Summer League slate.

However, even assistant coach Jordan Ott, who served as Nets head coach during the tournament, didn’t expect Thomas to come in and score more points in the first four games than any other player in Sin City.

Nets rookie Cam Thomas got to the free-throw line a Summer League-best 9.8 times per game. AP Photo by John Locher

“He continued to surprise us,” Ott admitted. “This is a great experience for the whole group, great experience for Cam to be in so many close games even in Summer League. He has to make the decisions down the stretch.

“He made big shot after big shot. And then his ability to get fouled. Eleven free throws again (Sunday). He has a knack. He’s very crafty as I’ve said before. He has a way to get to the free-throw line when maybe he doesn’t have a ton of space or a good look he’s able to get to the free-throw line.”

And now he’ll come to Brooklyn with considerably more hype for a team that is already stocked with Blake Griffin, Patty Mills and Bruce Brown as role players.

But even that isn’t likely to make Thomas gun shy when it comes to scoring down the stretch. He put up 13 of Brooklyn’s final 15 points against the Spurs last weekend.

“At the end of game, he’s shooting it,” said Ott. “We understand that. We love that he’s taking those shots. That’s how every NBA game is. At the end of (the) game, your best players take the shots and they’ve gotta make shots. He did it again.”

Whether he’ll have the opportunity or the playing time to do it in Brooklyn later this year is still unknown.

But judging from his initial appearances at the NBA level, Thomas won’t be the least bit afraid to put it up when it matters most.

“I’m basically learning on the job really. I think I’m doing real good. My progress has been great. I’ve been getting better game to game, getting in a better feel for the game, better feel for the pace,” he noted.

“I’ve gotta figure how the refs are gonna call the games because we was getting hammered out there. I’ve gotta learn on the fly. Plus you only get that by playing games. I think I’m doing real well.”

The Nets signed rookie Kessler Edwards, left, to a two-way contract on Monday. AP Photo by John Locher

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets signed second-round pick Kessler Edwards to a two-way contract (G-League/NBA) Monday and the budding forward put up 11 points in Tuesday’s Summer League finale. … Marks spent the offseason drafting the likes of Sharpe and Thomas, signing Mills away from San Antonio and, most importantly, inking Durant to a four-year extension. Now, the Nets will slowly build up toward training camp as they look to rebound from a disappointing loss to eventual NBA champion Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “I’m very excited about the additions that we made to this roster,” said Marks of his offseason haul. “We’ll certainly miss the guys that are no longer here and wish those guys extremely well as they move onto their other teams, but I think we addressed a lot of the needs. We won’t have addressed all the needs until probably post-trade deadline, and that’s when we’ll really know what we’ve got. But we wanted to make sure we were deep, we wanted to make sure we were healthy, and certainly address some of those needs from a defensive standpoint.”

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