Home News Nets Notebook: Cam Thomas’ offensive surge continues despite team’s poor record

Nets Notebook: Cam Thomas’ offensive surge continues despite team’s poor record



The continued evolution of Cam Thomas has been well documented.

Thomas’ third season in the NBA has certainly been a mixed bag. He dealt with a constantly fluctuating role under former head coach Jacque Vaughn. He has endured his fair share of injury absences and was not immune to the occasional shooting slump. But even through the ups and downs, he has still taken full advantage of his extended opportunities this season and is averaging career-best numbers across the board.

Thomas has continued to surge down the stretch despite Brooklyn’s record. The 22-year-old has averaged 26.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game over his last nine appearances entering Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center. He has played 36.1 minutes per night over that span.

Interim head coach Kevin Ollie wants Thomas to continue to build on his recent individual success and learn how to impact the game in ways that transcend the stat sheet.

“He still needs to just continue to grow, continue to court map, we keep talking about that,” Ollie said. “Reading the game, doing all the small little things, but his evolution with the playing time and being able to play through mistakes and being out there to get his scoring going, and then just his rebounds and assists have been up since the All-Star break.

“So, it’s been great to see his maturity in those areas and we want him to continue to grow in those areas, be a vocal leader. In timeouts he was great last game, just talking and keeping everybody together, talking about defensive stops. So that’s like showing maturity there, too. So, just want him to continue to have his leadership skills, continue to do the things that he’s doing.”

Thomas is unlikely to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this season although there are few in the league that have improved their overall stock in the way he has. Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey is currently the overwhelming favorite, according to most sportsbooks.

Perhaps Thomas would be getting more recognition for his dramatic improvements if the Nets had a better overall record this season. Team success is closely tied to individual accolades, after all. And Thomas must play at least 20 minutes in each of Brooklyn’s final eight games to remain eligible for the award.

“He should be in there, definitely, just with his body of work,” Ollie said. “I know he has a lot of guys he’s competing with as well. But with his body of work, his consistency and him being able to score the ball in the capacity that he’s scoring is always great. But for us to have these guys rewarded we have to win games, too. That goes with it. That’s just how the NBA is. You win, you get more recognition. So that’s why we always keep it a team sport, too, because it is a team sport. The better we do as a team, the more recognized we are as individuals.”

WALKER’S MINUTES

Lonnie Walker IV’s declining role has been a puzzling topic over the Nets’ final stretch of regular season games. The 25-year-old guard averaged 18.3 minutes per game over his first 43 appearances this season. However, he is averaging just 11.8 minutes per game since March 10.

Walker played just over nine minutes in the Nets’ defeat of the Toronto Raptors on Monday. He did not play at all in Tuesday’s win against Washington. And while he is averaging just 2.8 points per game over his last eight appearances — way lower than his season average — Ollie hinted that his recent struggles putting the ball in the hole are not the biggest reason why he currently finds himself outside the rotation.

“I keep telling him it’s not all just about scoring,” Ollie said. “It’s about doing all the other little things, playing defense, rebounding, making the right plays, and that’s just how it is. So, you know, have him continue to understand that, and when your shot’s not falling, doing the other things to make an impact on the game.”

Walker will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

INJURY UPDATES

Cam Johnson missed his third straight game on Friday because of a left big toe sprain, but he was seen at practice earlier in the afternoon putting up shots after shootaround.

Ollie said Johnson will meet with the Nets’ medical staff either Friday night or Saturday morning. Either way, the team should have an update on his progress soon.

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