So, who’s really winning this running shootaround game between Cam Thomas and Kevin Durant?
The rookie guard was claiming the upper ground against the man with the fourth-highest scoring average in NBA history, who wasn’t having it.
“He was lying for sure,” said Durant. “I definitely beat him 13 to 5. And those five shots that he made I turned my back and was like, ‘go ahead.’”
What’s not in dispute is that when it counted on Monday night in Cleveland, Thomas delivered for Brooklyn. The 20-year-old had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 3-pointers, in Brooklyn’s 117-112 win.
It was the latest step forward for Thomas, who saw mostly end-of-game playing time over the season’s first month before starting to get some real rotation minutes over the last week as the shorthanded Nets looked for reinforcements following injuries to Joe Harris and others.
“Without Joe, we were down a shooter, a spacer,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “We have to go with some different lineups and different guys. Cam was great. He stepped up with confidence to take shots. I think he is a kid who we all love and think has a bright future, but sometimes these early stages of the season you’re in tight games. It’s difficult, just some of the mistakes that are inevitable with these young guys. But tonight he really hung in there. Made some big shots for us and I thought was really aware defensively. I was proud of him tonight.”
“I got in, knew the game plan, knew what we had to do,” said Thomas. “I got in, I got great looks, wide-open looks. I feel like those are really good for me, coming in right away and getting wide-open looks, and I made the most of ‘em. So when KD or James (Harden) kick it to me, you’ve gotta knock it down when you’re wide open, and I think I did that tonight. So a great building block for me.”
Thomas made an impact after entering the game with 5:24 to go in the third quarter, with the Nets having cut Cleveland’s 12-point lead to seven. Brooklyn was still down nine, trailing 80-71, when Thomas connected on a 3-pointer with 2:32 to go in the quarter. He followed up with a three-point play after banking in a mid-range jumper, bringing the Nets within one, then put Brooklyn up 84-82 going into the fourth quarter with a 15-foot jumper with five seconds left in the quarter.
“He gave us the boost we needed you know? Somebody that can score off the dribble, off the catch like that,” said Durant. “When a team, young team like this, they’re going to send all the resources at James and myself, so they’re playing super-physical and super-tight to me and they’re gonna bring over some help when I drive, so guys are gonna be open and Cam was…they left him open. I guess he wasn’t on the scouting report. But they left him open and he made plays. In transition he got out and tied the game for us, and then that and-one, it was huge for us. And I think that pushed us over the top.”
Thomas was back with Brooklyn after a quick weekend detour in which he scored 46 points for the Long Island Nets in their 114-110 NBA G League win over Raptors 905. Thomas played 39 minutes, shooting 17-of-32, and had seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. It was his second game for Long Island, having scored 33 points in the season-opener.
So even with the G League season underway, Thomas has been spending most of his time with Brooklyn, even as playing time was limited until recently. There’s value in the time spent around players like Harden and Durant, no matter what the score is in a pick-up game.
“We just talk the game,” said Durant. “I wouldn’t call it mentoring. We’re just exchanging information. He’s seeing my game from a different vantage point coming off the bench, I’m seeing his game, so we just exchange information and go over stuff that we see and try to sharpen our skills and our tools and our IQ as mental basketball players first. It’s good to see a young dude like Cam who is into it like that. You can tell he’s a student. We need him to build on this. We don’t need him to be comfortable because he had a little 11-point game, because he made a couple shots. I’m always on him, and he’s always on me, too, but I’m going to be on him even more now.”
With a 114–107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on MLK Day, the Brooklyn Nets are 0–1 since Kevin Durant sprained his left knee. The injury will keep the former MVP sidelined past the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. Should Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks consider a move to help the Nets survive Durant’s absence?
The club is already $35.3 million over the luxury tax line. While Brooklyn isn’t paying the repeater penalty in 2021–22, it is already looking at a $110.4 million luxury tax bill. That doesn’t necessarily preclude the Nets from making a deal. However, it does make it a pricey consideration.
Here are three options Marks could consider before the deadline:
Mills came to the Nets to back up the superstar backcourt duo of Irving and James Harden. But Joe Harris’ ankle injury forced coach Steve Nash’s hand. Mills has started 25 of his 42 appearances this season.
However, he’s much more effective as a spot-up shooter with the second unit. In 439 minutes off the bench, Mills shoots 48.9% from 3-point range. Given that P.J. Tucker of the Miami Heat leads the NBA with a 47.4% mark, the 33-year-old Australian is a bench weapon.
As a starter, Mills makes 39.1%. That’s still better than league average, but it’s not elite.
The issue is finding a fit that doesn’t break the budget. Brooklyn has an $11.5 million exception from the Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade, so it could theoretically keep the roster intact while adding a player making less than that.
The best option for a trade target is Goran Dragić, the erstwhile Toronto Raptor who left the team in late November and last played on Oct. 25. But his $19.4 million cap number blows through the roof of the exception.
Delon Wright of the Atlanta Hawks is more of a backup than a starter, but his $8.5 million salary on an expiring contract works financially. Tyus Jones of the Memphis Grizzlies ($8.4 million) is in the same mold as Wright, and Memphis likely won’t want to tinker with its rotation.
The most experienced starter out there making less than $11.5 million is Dennis Schröder of the Boston Celtics. His mid-level exception deal is $5.9 million.
2. The Nets look for scoring punch
With Durant sidelined, the Brooklyn Nets could add some offensive punch. Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic fits that description. However, there are two potential snags with a possible Ross trade.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Magic want draft capital for Ross. Brooklyn has little to offer, thanks to the Harden trade in January 2021. Per RealGM, the Nets don’t have an uncommitted pick until Miami’s top-37 protected pick in 2025.
The Nets’ first-round picks are out of play through 2027. It’s not likely a 2026 second-round selection moves the needle much in Orlando.
The other complication with Ross is his $12.5 million cap hit. The top-heavy salary cap sheet limits Brooklyn’s flexibility (see Lakers, Los Angeles for more details).
3. The Brooklyn Nets ride it out and wait for the buyout market
Of the three scenarios presented, this is by far the most likely. The downside is that it won’t help the team within Durant’s injury timeframe.
But that is when a player like Dragić becomes the most accessible. If the Raptors buy out the former All-Star’s contract, the Brooklyn Nets can swoop in and grab the Slovenian lefty for the prorated veteran’s minimum for the rest of the season.
Irving made it clear after the loss in Cleveland that his vaccination status won’t change. Adding Dragić gives Nash another point guard option, at least once the 35-year-old gets back into playing shape after the long layoff.
The Brooklyn Nets have navigated Irving’s complex situation, a coronavirus outbreak in December, injuries to Harris and Nic Claxton, and now are faced with Durant’s absence. As is often the case, sometimes the best move is not to make one.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than 520 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through January 10, 2022. … COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”
James Harden is one of the best point guards in the league, and there is no doubt that he is crucial to the way the Brooklyn Nets offense operates, as he is the floor general for the team. Currently, James Harden is averaging 22.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 10.0 APG for the team.
Despite the fact that he is teamed up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving currently, there is a possibility that James Harden will end up leaving. NBA insider Marc Stein has recently revealed that there is “noise circulating leaguewide” about James Harden being open to a change of scenery this summer.
Yet it must be noted that there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer — after he turned down a lucrative extension from the Nets in October — to give Morey the encouragement he needs to wait.
As of now, the Brooklyn Nets are the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, and they will be without Kevin Durant for quite some time due to the forward suffering an injury while playing the New Orleans Pelicans. However, they have had the No. 1 seed at times this year, and there is no doubt that they’re a top-tier teams in terms of star power and talent. They’re primed for a good playoff run, and it is quite possible that they’ll win the 2021-22 NBA championship.
The Maine Nordiques and the New Jersey Titans had a goaltending battle for the second straight night.
The Titans came out on top again Saturday with a 3-0 win over the Nordiques in an NAHL East Division contest at Middletown Ice World Arena in Middletown, New Jersey.
Andrew Takacs made 28 saves for the win and Gus Holt stopped 35 shots in the loss.
“(The Titans) weren’t able to score directly on (Holt),” Maine Nordiques coach Matt Pinchevsky said. “They had to get (the puck) to bounce off bodies and skates, things like that. I chose to pull the goaltender and we had a good (chance) at their net, but they were able to counter and sail (the puck) into the empty net.”
Eric Charpentier scored his first goal of the year to give the Titans a 1-0 lead midway through the second period. Former Twin City Thunder player Levente Keresztes had an assist on the goal.
The Titans struck on the power play in the middle of the third period with Chris Carroll finding the back of the net. Brendan Dumas and Tommy Bannister each collected their 26th assists of the season on the goal.
“We have to make sure we have sticks checked out front and try to get in the way of those shots,” Pinchevsky said. “We have the goaltending to stop them, but they found the back of the net with two unlucky bounces.”
David Postma scored an empty-net goal in the final minute of the game.
The Nordiques host the Johnstown Tomahawks on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. both nights at The Colisee.
“We know what exactly to work on as we prepare for Johnstown and that’s producing, scoring goals,” Pinchevsky said. “We didn’t have the production down here (in New Jersey), but we saw a lot of great things defensively, as far as a compete level and focus, our drive and determination to be hard to play against at all times.”