Nets rookie Thomas resumes scoring surge
Puts up game-high 21 points in exhibition rout of Lakers
While Brooklynites wait to see if Kyrie Irving will get vaccinated ahead of the most anticipated season in Nets history, Cam Thomas continues to put up impressive numbers.
The Nets’ preseason rookie sensation scored a game-high 21 points Sunday as Brooklyn opened its exhibition slate with a 123-97 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers in front of 16,000 fans at Staples Center.
“Cam can score. We know he’s a guy that can get to his shot and make shots. He made some [Sunday],” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after watching the team’s first-round draft pick hit 7-of-14 shots from the floor and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line.
“Cam’s a scorer. He can score. … He’s got a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, but he starts with a lot of ability,” added Nash. “I’m not surprised. He has that type of talent and game just got to continue to develop him and teach him and get him up to speed with the NBA game.”
Thomas hasn’t exactly been lagging behind since the Nets selected the 19-year-old Louisiana State alum with the 27th pick in this year’s annual NBA swap meet at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Thomas, who paced the Southeastern Conference in points last year, led all scorers with better than 23 points per contest during the Nets’ Summer League campaign in Las Vegas.
On Sunday, with Irving, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin and Joe Harris sitting out, Thomas had the floor to himself once he checked in off the bench.
He didn’t just fill up the scoring column either.
Thomas grabbed four rebounds, handed out a pair of assists and blocked a shot in 22 minutes.
“Scoring is scoring. I don’t know why people always think stuff can’t translate. Scoring is scoring. If you can score, you can score,” Thomas told the New York Post.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against,” he added. “Me and Kyrie have been talking a lot, talking about little stuff. So I’m trying to take from him as much as I can because it can help me in the long run.”
Irving, who could lose up to $15 million in salary and up to $400,000 per game if he continues to remain vax-free, was scheduled to return to Brooklyn with his teammates this week.
As per Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccination mandate, Irving can neither practice not play alongside his teammates here in Brooklyn until he receives at least one vaccine shot.
His lack of participation in Sunday’s game didn’t cause a stir, especially with both Durant and Harden sitting out.
But if Irving is unable to suit up for Friday’s preseason home opener vs. defending NBA champion Milwaukee, the mercurial point guard figures to be in the midst of yet another media maelstrom.
Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors was the other notable preseason vaccination holdout as San Francisco has the same vax mandates as New York.
According to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Wiggins is no longer on the clock.
“Andrew got vaccinated,” Kerr revealed Sunday. “He just told me today that he was fine with us acknowledging it and that will be the end of it. I’m not going to answer any questions beyond that.”
Nash isn’t so lucky.
He must continue to get his team ready for what many are predicting will be a championship year while quelling concerns regarding Irving’s ongoing unavailability due to COVID-19 protocols.
“I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions,” Irving said of the upcoming season.
“This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”
And the Nets will continue to do their best to gear up for the 2021-22 season, even if it means Irving will only be available for road games.
At least Thomas is beginning to prove that he can step up and score if the Nets find themselves short-handed come the regular-season home opener vs. Charlotte on Oct. 24.
NOTHING BUT NET: Nets rookie Day’Ron Sharpe was also active in Sunday’s win over the Lakers, who sat out LeBron James and Russell Westbrook while limiting Anthony Davis’ minutes. Sharpe had 13 points, six rebounds and two steals in only 14 minutes off the bench. … Veteran forward Paul Millsap started and scored 10 points while ripping down 10 boards in his Nets debut against the Lakers. “A lot of factors weighed into my decision (to sign with the Nets),” Millsaps said. “eing a part of this organization, of Brooklyn and the team that’s around, it was a decision that I made based off of winning now and trying to win a championship this year. I feel like with the pieces that we have it was definitely possible.”
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