LAS VEGAS — The Nets have told Cam Thomas to improve his passing.
He responded with his best assist game since high school — at least — with seven assists to lead the Nets to a 91-84 summer league win over Philadelphia on Sunday.
“Yes, I just want to come here and show that [I] might do it,” Thomas said. “It’s what they see and whatever they see how good I am at it. I think I’m really good at it. But there is always something.”
Thomas’ career best in the NBA is four assists, as is his best at LSU. When asked if it was his best performance ever, he shrugged, “I don’t know. I’m not following that.”
All-time best or not, it showed promise. Thomas showed he can score by topping Summer League to earn co-MVP honors last year. And on Sunday against Philadelphia, he had 26 points, three rebounds and two steals.
“Because he’s such a great scorer as he is, he uses that as his focal point – he uses his aggression to create the plays for him,” said David Duke Jr. “He has great instincts. Being a good scorer makes it a lot easier to be a passer because everyone will be pounding on you. I’m sure he understands that, you see it game after game.”
Passing by was the most auspicious sign. Nets head coach Steve Nash had told NBATV he wanted Thomas to improve his game, and unless it was an organizational mandate, it was taken to heart.
“No Mandate: Just part of every young player’s growth. Cam is an elite scorer. He really bought into himself as a decision maker and he showed that,” said Nets Summer League coach Adam Caporn. “Showed it in the last game too, but that reflects in the game and he’s getting better game by game.
“And did what he’s doing to lead us in the fourth quarter and into stretches and still scoring. I see him as an elite pick and roll player over time. He can find the roll, throw lob passes, see the ground and has the strength to keep the ball in tight spaces and in the key lane. That’s a good recipe.”
And although Thomas’ knight didn’t fall – he only went 5-for-17 off the floor – he played aggressively, coming onto the lane to either earn trips to the foul line or create for others. The sophomore guard pulled off a perfect 15-on-15 from the free-throw line and took over late when the Nets needed it.
Thomas had an encouraging sequence as he scored a three-pointer play, then drove and found Kessler Edwards for a three-pointer and finished it off with a midrange jumper.
“I’m just improving what I can, really just improving what they want to work on in the off-season,” Thomas said. “I got MVP last year, so that’s not a goal or anything. If I get it this year it would be a blessing. But I’m not worried about the scoring, the stats, MVP. I’m just worried about working on what they want me to work on so I can get more grounded in the regular season.”
This includes his playmaking, aiming, defending, and even leading. The irony is that Thomas – only 20 – has 23-year-old rookies like Alondes Williams turning to him for advice.
“It’s crazy to look at. I was thinking about this a few weeks ago because Day’Ron [Sharpe] said, “We’re still the youngest on the team,” and I said, “Man, you’re right. We’re still the youngest on the team, even though we have more NBA experience.” I don’t take it for granted that they look at me like that because they don’t have to listen to me. i am younger
“I do [have] more NBA experience so they should listen and I will help where ever I can. I’m happy to help.”