Nets happy with development of emerging rookie Cam Thomas



The Nets don’t want to rush rookie Cam Thomas, don’t want to push him to help fill the void left by first Kyrie Irving and now Joe Harris.

They don’t want him to take on a bigger role until he’s ready for it.

Here’s the rub. With the unvaccinated Irving out indefinitely, and the injured Harris sidelined four to eight weeks, they really need the rookie first-round pick to get ready quickly.

“We believe in him. We love the player we were able to draft,” Steve Nash said before the Nets faced the Knicks on Tuesday at Barclays Center. “I’m proud of the growth he’s made, because he has a huge adjustment to make from the role he’s played his whole life to the role we’re asking him to play with the makeup of our team and those kind of primary scorers we have in James [Harden] and Kevin [Durant]. But also the shift from high school to college game — where he was an off-the-dribble scorer, a lot of midrange shots — to the NBA game now that doesn’t necessarily allow room for that other than a dozen guys or so.

“That’s a big change, and he’s been outstanding. And being willing to adjust and showing he can still find a way to play and grow defensively. If his role grows it’s more on his continued development than on our necessity, because that’s too much of a burden to throw at him: Jump ahead two years for us real quick here. But we’re real proud of him. We think he’s really put in an effort to try and improve and grow and to fit into a new role on a new team. Really, that’s impressive.”

Cam Thomas
Cam Thomas

No Net could replace Irving, and none are going to replicate the shooting of Harris, who’s won two of the past three 3-point shooting crowns.

Tuesday’s clash versus the Knicks marked the seventh straight game Harris missed with a left ankle injury, and after having surgery Monday, his absence has left a hole in the offense.

It would be a huge boost if the 20-year-old Thomas can fill some of it.

“[Losing Harris] is big, because Joe, you know, [is the] best shooter in the league. He’s like the leading 3-point percentage shooter, so of course we’re going to miss him. But it’s next man up,” Thomas said. “If that’s me, I’ve got to be in the rotation and knock down those shots that he usually makes, and bring what I can bring to help the team elevate and have us in a good stretch.”

Thomas can’t knock down the shots that Harris usually makes. Frankly, nobody in the NBA not named Curry can.

Harris’ 51.5 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s last season was the highest ever recorded (minimum 200 attempts) since such data started being kept in 2013-14.

Thomas’ game can’t replace Harris like-for-like, coming into Tuesday just 2 of 19 from deep. But the rookie is 48 percent from inside the arc and has shown both offensive savvy and utter fearlessness.

Thomas entered Tuesday averaging 9.0 points in 17.2 minutes on 45 percent shooting over his prior three games. He’d mustered just 12 points on 5 of 24 in 55 minutes through his first 10 games combined.

With Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge’s elevation into the starting lineup having already robbed the bench of scoring punch, Nash could well turn to Thomas. Even if he doesn’t want to.

“He hasn’t said nothing. But obviously you’ve got to be ready, because you never know when you’re going to be thrown in or when your time is,” Thomas said. “So he didn’t say nothing to me, I’m always going to be ready when he calls me to go in. Whether it’s early in the game or later in the game, I’m going to be ready to go in and try to make an impact as best I can.”


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