Cam Thomas was as casual as can be as crossed the mid-court, dribbled the ball between his legs and then knocked a 29-foot step-back three to deliver the final blow to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
If it seemed as though Thomas had done it be before, it’s because he has. He did it twice during NBA Summer League ball in Las Vegas and earlier this year against the San Antonio Spurs across the river at Barclays Center. Now you can add under the bright lights of Broadway to that seemingly growing list.
On a night when the Nets stood tall against adversity, Thomas became the focal point of the team’s historic comeback. The rookie finished the night with 21 points, putting up 16 of those in the fourth quarter as well as seven straight points in Brooklyn’s 15-0 run late in the final period to give them their first lead of the night.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) February 17, 2022
“It was the game-winner. We know that about Cam,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of his dramatic shot. “We’ve seen it in Summer League, we’ve seen it at times this year. He loves those moments. There’s a gene in there somewhere, and he has that.”
Thomas has been a part of a group of rookies that have taken advantage of the absence of some of Brooklyn’s biggest stars and used the playing time they’ve gotten to showcase what they can do.
The LSU product has averaged 9.6 points per game in 47 appearances for the Nets this season, along with shooting 44.7% from the field this year. On Wednesday, he struggled early in the game shooting 2-for-11 with five points through three quarters, but finished the night going 7-of-10 from the field in the fourth quarter.
“He has a deep belief in his ability. I think he seeks those moments,” Nash said. “So that’s something that’s inside him that is rare. That’s an innate talent. I think his teammates have belief in him so that allows his belief to be fortified. I thought the way he played down the stretch, he made the game-winner and all that, but he made a bunch of plays down the stretch. We went to him and a rookie carrying the load in a rivalry game like this in the Garden shows you what’s inside of Cam.”
Thomas’ performance was impressive not only to Nash or the Brooklyn fans that hopped a subway to see the game, but to Nets superstar Kevin Durant as well.
Durant ran onto the court to celebrate with Thomas after his last-second shot and took to Twitter to praise his teammate. “Way to lead us tonight 24,” he tweeted.
Way to lead us tonight 24…
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) February 17, 2022
“Staying aggressive, that was the main key,” Thomas said about his turnaround in the fourth. “Just staying aggressive and then when the offense just turned to pick and rolls, get them in ball screens, that’s when I finally got my rhythm. I had a few layups. I had a layup on (Immanuel) Quickly on the inbounds and then I missed a floater. Got the rebound and got a layup so that’s what really got me going. That’s when the pick and rolls started coming.
“The mid-ranges went big. That’s practice shots so great strategy.”
The development of Thomas, along with the other rookies on the Nets’ roster, is sure to be a big advantage for the organization not only this season, but for the years to come.
“His growth is coming along as far as knowing how to read when he’s doubled,” LaMarcus Aldridge said. “When to drop it off. I think the toughest thing as a scorer is you always can just shoot it. I’ve dealt with that too, so now I think he’s learning take this shot, pass this time.”