Cam Thomas can be a divisive figure for Nets fans. There are those who remember his 28-foot dagger at the Garden last season that capped off a 28-point comeback or his astonishing 21 points in the fourth quarter that led a star-starved Nets to a win over the Pacers this season. Others will carp about his shot selection, his defense, his passing, etc., but the bottom line is that the 6’4” Thomas creates a buzz … and is, at 21 years old, not a finished product.
So, it’s not a surprise to hear his name in trade rumors. His heroics are well known around the league and he has two more years left on his rookie deal. But in an interview with Ian Begley of SNY, Thomas had a positive attitude about his development and the Nets.
Asked about that development, Thomas didn’t talk about improvements in his game (although his passing has certainly gotten better than his strength.) Rather, he spoke about fitting into the NBA game.
“I have a better understanding of the NBA game and how it works. Of course, I still want to get better. I’m only in Year 2 but I feel like I have a better understanding of the NBA style of play,” he told Begley. “So that’s a big thing for me. I’m just going to continue to learn, continue to talk to KD, Kyrie about what to look for. Just pick their brains. I think I’ve become a better player in that aspect and I just want to keep growing.”
Indeed, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have taken him under their wings with KD and others engaging in banter or shooting contests.
Asked about how the team has responded to KD’s injury, Thomas (who’s averaging 10 points in Durant’s absence, including back-to-back 15 point games vs. the Suns and Spurs) echoed what a lot of his teammates have said. Brooklyn with its depth is better equipped this season than last when the Nets went 5-16 without Durant.
“I feel like we have a great group to handle it this year. Last year, we didn’t really handle it great. It was a lot going on. We struggled. This year, I feel like we have a group that’s more cohesive and we can handle it way better than we did last year. So I think we’ll be just fine,” he said.
Thomas also praised Jacque Vaughn, not in terms of x’s and o’s but respect.
“Coach has been amazing in leading us all together, giving us input, letting us give ideas. Just talking things out. It’s been great. It’s really rubbed off on us as a team,” he said. “A coach like that, you really want to play hard for him. You don’t want to let him down. You want to give your all to a guy like that.”
That willingness to communicate, Thomas said, has paid off on the court.
“Definitely. Sometimes we have a game plan and it doesn’t work every time. Since we’re the ones out there playing, we have a feel for it. Our instincts kick in. So if we need to switch a defensive coverage or switch things up offensively, we can give good input on how the game is flowing. That’s been really good for us.”
Thomas also spoke to Begley about how he’s started to give back … to his elementary school in Chesapeake, Va, the Portlock Primary School. The giving back includes donations and gifts of Nets gear to students.
“I just want to give back as much as I can and help them as much as they can because I was in their shoes,” Thomas said. “I wanted someone to give back when I was coming up. So I just want to be a resource for them, help in any way I can.
“I just want to leave a lasting impact on them. And to show them that I’m very thankful for the teachers who helped me come up when I was in school there,” Thomas says. “I want to be a resource for them.”