Cameron Thomas ‘just finds a way’ to keep scoring at summer league

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LAS VEGAS — Cameron Thomas wasn’t the top overall selection, or even a lottery pick, in this year’s NBA draft. But the Nets’ guard came into Friday as the highest-scoring rookie in summer league — and as a teenager with the offensive game of an NBA veteran.

“Cam, I mean, I don’t even know where to start,” Nets summer league coach Jordan Ott said. “Ultimate gamer, young guy, finds a way often. … Even just getting to the free-throw line when nothing is there, the ability to get to the free-throw line. For a young guy, it’s pretty incredible.

“I’m not sure the words ‘savvy, crafty,’ [are enough]. Just finds a way. That’s how we phrased it. You can see him step-by-step-by step, and a big jump. Unbelievable down the stretch the shots he hit.”

Thomas was averaging 24.0 points and 9.3 free throw attempts, both tops among all rookies in the summer league. He was fourth overall in scoring, third in free throws taken and second in free throws made (7.3).

Cameron Thomas on draft night.
NBAE via Getty Images

It hasn’t taken the 19-year-old long to earn the trust of both his summer league teammates and the coaches, who’ve put the ball in his hands in isolation situations at the end of quarters and to win games.

“For me to be the rook and have so much confidence in me to go out there and win the game for us is big, and it shows how much trust they have in me. I can’t thank them enough,” Thomas said. “I can’t thank my teammates enough for trusting me as well to give me the ball and just clear out 1-4 flat. Do you. Be you.

“It’s been great. All the coaches have been helping me, always encouraging me, always challenging me to be better, always challenging me to do stuff on the defensive end, rebound, and this last game [Thursday’s two-overtime win over the Wizards] just told me to go out there and win the game for ’em. For a coaching staff like that to have that much trust in you to go out there and just say 1-4 flat was kind of cool. It was good.”

On Wednesday, Thomas scored nine of his 22 points in the final 2:45 to lead the Nets past the Bucks. The next night, he poured in 31, including 16 after the third quarter. He tied the score in the first overtime on a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining, then drilled a one-footed floating 3 to win it in sudden death.

The key, as Thomas alluded to, was improving on the defensive end to earn his way into the rotation once the regular season starts. He already has shown at least some ability to facilitate; he had four assists against the Bucks.

“A lot of the ballhandling duties then went to Cam at times. So just putting him kinda in the fire, see the pressure, how he handles it,” Ott said. “At times it sped them up, but it’s not too often that he gets sped up for a young guy.

“He handled it, he was able to get to a spot. He found it again in the second half. It’s amazing. The first half [he] figures it out, [the] second half, he’s able to dominate.”

The Nets are believed to have interest in Kevin Love if he’s bought out by the Cavaliers. The big man would reportedly have to walk away from between $12 million-$15 million if Cleveland were to consider a buyout, according to the Athletic. … Unrestricted free-agent guard Lance Stephenson held a private workout Friday in Las Vegas in front of league personnel. The Nets were expected to attend, as were the Nuggets, Bucks and 76ers, according to Yahoo.

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