Jacque Vaughn watching how Cam Thomas adjusts to ever-changing role with Nets

Cam Thomas Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets’ Cam Thomas during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Milwaukee.
AP Photo/Morry Gash

In Saturday’s win over the Indiana Pacers, Cam Thomas was the Nets star helping lead them to a win over the Indiana Pacers. The next game he was back to a smaller role with the team’s stars back on the court. 

Thus has been the life of Thomas this season with Brooklyn after having a bit of a breakout year in 2021-22 due to injuries and COVID. This year with a bit more consistency with the Nets lineup, Thomas’ role has been much smaller.

Outside of Brooklyn’s last two games, Thomas had been averaging 9.2 minutes per game in the 10 appearances prior and he did not play on Friday when the Atlanta Hawks came to Barclays Center. 

“It’s an interesting task for him and challenge for him,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said during a virtual media availability on Wednesday.  “Just because I thought as a group we wanted cam to really, if we thought about it before the game, everyone was like Cam’s gotta score 30 for us in this game for us to have a chance to win. And it happened (on Saturday), but you go into Washington, like everyone’s pretty much going to play the night and Cam’s probably not going to have 30. So now, what does that first and second possession looked like for him?

“That’s the challenge that I have for him.”

Thomas shot 1-for-4 in Monday’s win over the Washington Wizards and had five points after putting up 33 points on Saturday. The different roles that he played in each game are something that Vaughn watched to see how he responded. 

The Nets coach was looking to see how he handled the different scenarios.

“Value that first and second possession just the way you value the possessions when you knew you would have this ninth 10th and 11th shot,” Vaughn explained. “And so can he get better as a player that way? And if he does, man that is a huge step for a young guy to be able to work towards this very first mid-range shot, or penetration that I get or jab three that I get is just as important as that fourth quarter shot when I had the leeway to take four shots in a row. That growth for him would be huge as a player.” 

While Vaughn is keeping an eye on how Thomas handles certain circumstances, he isn’t trying to box him into a specific role. For instance, under former head coach Steve Nash, he emphasized Thomas being a facilitator. 

For Vaughn, it’s all about making sure he’s making the right plays. 

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“I haven’t like put him in a lane where I’m grading him on how good he is as a facilitator,” Vaughn said. “I want him just to be a Hooper who makes the right choice and sometimes three passes in a row is going to be the right choice. Sometimes three shots in a row is gonna be the right choice and I’m okay with that.”

The Nets have come back around after a horrid start to the season. The new Nets bench boss has effectively helped Brooklyn turn a corner and they’re currently on a four-game winning streak heading into Friday’s meeting with the Toronto Raptors. 

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