Cam Thomas wanted his opportunity. Now he’s got one.
Because with Kyrie Irving serving a minimum five-game suspension for what the Nets encapsulated as “conduct detrimental to the team,” there is now a desperate need for backcourt scoring in Brooklyn, and Thomas — the talented bucket-getter — can provide it.
It doesn’t take a super sleuth to figure out Thomas has grown disgruntled with his role in the Nets’ rotation.
There was the all-telling eye-roll on live TV last season when asked about criticism from his former head coach Steve Nash. More recently, as the “DNP — Coach’s Decision” statuses racked up, he changed his Instagram bio to #FreeCT with the shackles emoji (before changing it to a Joker in a deck of cards emoji) and posted a clip from the hit FX show “Snowfall,” where the main character, Franklin, is explaining to his mother that being merciful didn’t give him the desired results.
Thomas’ frustration lies in his usage: Entering Wednesday’s matchup against the Washington Wizards, he has appeared in only three games this season, playing zero impactful minutes. He played 13 minutes in Brooklyn’s embarrassing season-opening loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and has played just one minute of garbage time in two other games against the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.
And yet Thomas couldn’t have envisioned his opportunity would have come like this: Irving’s suspension immediately created an opening for Thomas, an opening that could be longer than five games if Irving fails to satisfy the criteria for his reinstatement.
That criteria — after posting a link to the deeply antisemitic film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” on his social media channels — includes meeting with Brooklyn’s Jewish leadership, training sessions on the dangers of hate speech, a public statement recognizing the film is antisemitic, and an apology for supporting the film and the falsehoods in it, according to ESPN.
Completing those tasks could take Irving far longer than the five-game timeline, which would — at the absolute earliest — render him eligible to play again on Nov. 13 in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
That makes Thomas all the more crucial in Brooklyn. Irving’s absence creates a need Thomas fills, a box he checks because scoring abilities were never in question. He’s proven more than capable of generating offense at every level: college, summer league and in regular season competition.
The time for Thomas is now. For the second-year guard, it’s always been about paying his dues on a roster deep at his position.
Irving plays the lion’s share of the minutes at the lead guard, but also ahead of Thomas are Edmond Sumner, Patty Mills and sharpshooter Seth Curry, who is recovering from off-season ankle surgery. Sumner, coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, has already leapfrogged Thomas in Brooklyn’s rotation and is starting in place of the suspended Irving. Even undrafted second-year forward David Duke Jr. finds himself getting consistent minutes in the Nets’ rotation.
And Thomas can’t complain if he doesn’t maximize this opportunity in front of him. There’s no level of complaining behind the scenes that will compensate if he isn’t ready to be the gifted scorer the Nets need him to step up and be while they clamor for an offensive threat while Irving is out of the lineup.