Cam Thomas grateful that Spencer Dinwiddie ‘coached me a little bit’
The plan for Spencer Dinwiddie, at least from his perspective, was simple. He wanted Cam Thomas to feel comfortable, not to step on his toes, to allow the Nets’ second-year guard the freedom to take — and keep taking — shots after a “great » historical sequence.
It worked until Thomas needed Dinwiddie because for the first time in a week he couldn’t connect on a basket.
Almost everything had gone well for Thomas during his three-game 40-point streak. But against the Bulls on Thursday, he missed shot after shot after shot – six in a row – en route to a scoreless first half. He needed a veteran guard, like Dinwiddie, to “take the pressure off me” and distract opposing defences. It worked in the final 24 minutes, when the Nets’ new backcourt scored 38 of the team’s last 63 points.
“[Dinwiddie] has the potential to make all the right plays and he’s a good decision maker,” Thomas told the Post after the Nets’ 116-105 win over the Bulls. “So I’m just glad he’s been guiding me on the pitch a bit. … I feel like we played really well against each other [Thursday].”
Thomas had a feeling that this type of failed shoot would eventually happen. His three-game flurry forced defenses to pay more attention — especially after the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant trade — and made him the focus of scouting reports. Face shield. Double-teams. Defenders stalk him all over the field. And the unexpected escape meant Thomas would have to digest it all “on the fly”.
“It’s not new to me,” Thomas said, “but at the NBA level, it’s different. These guys, they get paid to guard. They’re the best defenders in the world, so it’s It’s just trying to pick your seats and pass them on to the guys who take the pressure off me.
That’s where Dinwiddie helped, in his first game for the Nets after acquiring Dallas in the trade from Irving. The ninth-year guard, who previously played with the Nets from 2016-21, gave his new teammate a way to distribute the ball when Chicago’s double teams crumbled and Thomas’ floaters touched the rim. Dinwiddie finished with team highs in points (25), assists (six) and steals (four).
When Thomas started to find his rhythm in the third quarter – a 3-pointer off the key, another on the next possession – he stepped in and continued to control the offense.
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said the way Thomas reacted after his slow offensive start was “great to see.” It was a sequence of events he couldn’t replicate any better – from starting 0 for 6 to resetting on the bench to returning and impacting the game – and created a scenario in which Thomas could still contribute. despite increased attention from an opponent’s defensive structure.
Thomas’ stat line of 20 points, with six rebounds, four assists and 13 free throws, demonstrated how this approach came to fruition.
“What I liked was [Thomas] had some composure all night,” Vaughn said, “where in the second half he figured out where to get to his spots, how to drive the basketball. So that was a growth in itself because he started not making shots anymore.
When Thomas was on the bench in the first half, and when the Nets returned to their locker room at halftime, Vaughn told him to “stick with it.” He didn’t want Thomas to get fuzzy – not all games will have a tag of perfection or efficiency attached. Vaughn wanted Thomas to “fight” his worst shooting percentage, in a game with more than three attempts, since Nov. 12.
It helped that the final stage of Thomas’ budding evolution also included a new sidekick.
“Every night your shot won’t go down,” Thomas told the Post. “It’s just the reality of basketball. It’s about what you do when your shot don’t fall, and I feel like I showed it [Thursday].”