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For Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, injury brings opportunity

2020-21 Brooklyn Nets Content Day Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After Spencer Dinwiddie got hurt Sunday night in Charlotte, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot became next man up for the Nets. In the Nets failed comeback, TLC scored 11 points in 12 minutes, going 3-of-3 from deep.

Then, on Monday, the 25-year-old got his first start of the season promptly poured in 19 points in the first half, finishing with 21. Luwawu-Cabarrot is not Spencer Dinwiddie. He is not the ball handler, the point guard Dinwiddie is, but he can score in bunches and is now a reliable 3-point shooter. He is also confident in his abilities.

“[It’s] always great to learn and especially losses like that, where I personally made a few mistakes at the end of the stretch,” he said when asked about what he’s taken from the two games. “It’s good to take the mistakes, learn from it, move on. And obviously hope for a better result. But you got to take it and learn from it.”

Steve Nash also had praise for TLC.

“TLC has just been really steady,” Nash said after Monday’s loss. “Very trustworthy defensively. Knows the system. Is very attentive to his responsibilities, and he’s been shooting the ball. He’s played within himself. He’s doing very well.”

So far, this season, Luwawu-Cabarrot’s shooting line is 50/44/100. He’s also averaging 10.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 10 minutes a game. It’s not inconceivable that Dinwiddie and Chris Chiozza will be asked to fill the deficit created by Dinwiddie’s knee injury.

Not bad for TLC who a little more than a year ago was out of work. He had been cut by the Cavaliers in training camp, his fourth team in four years. Taken at No. 24 in the 2016 Draft, four places after Caris LeVert, he had played two seasons with Philadelphia before being dealt in a three-team deal to OKC. A year later, he was sent to Chicago for $2.6 million and a highly protected second rounder. The Bulls didn’t resign him. So he tried out for Cleveland.

The Nets, with an open two-way, signed him on Opening Night and sent him to Long Island where the head coach was Shaun Fein who had played with him in France. TLC had been plagued by a reputation for inconsistency and his deep shooting was unreliable. But

It didn’t take long for the Nets to give him a shot, with Kenny Atkinson being his champion. Just before Christmas, he moved into the rotation after David Nwaba ruptured his Achilles. Initially, he displayed some of the same inconsistency but as the season went on, he gained confidence as he gained minutes and his 3-point shooting began to improve. By the end of January, he was shooting better than 40 percent, nearly double what he had with the Thunder the year before.

“Of course. They gave me that role and I embrace it: I love it,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said back in February. “I love to go out there and compete and play super-hard. We have a lineup where we really have something to do together.”

Then, as the injuries and illness took its toll, Luwawu-Cabarrot rose to the occasion and the Nets used every angle of the CBA to keep him, exhausting almost all of the 45-day limit for two-ways, then signing him to two 10-days before finally giving him a standard contract on January 5. It was, like so many of the contracts the Nets have given development projects, team-friendly. The contract guaranteed him through the end of last season, but left his second year non-guaranteed.

Now, armed with some security as well as opportunity, the athletic 6’7” wing took off. In the same game LeVert scored 51 in overtime against Boston the week before the pandemic hit, TLC scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 31 minutes. Four days later, in the game where LeVert had his triple-double against the Spurs, he scored 19 points. Then in the final game before the NBA went on hiatus, he helped the Nets win in L.A. with 13 points.

By the time the Nets got to the “bubble,” TLC was a starter. He averaged 14.8 points over the eight seeding games and 16 in the four playoffs games while shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. So, his early start this season isn’t exactly a surprise. The Nets risk was paying off.

Is he the next Nets development success, the next Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell?

When the Nets picked him up, he was 24, a little older than Dinwiddie when he was called up from the Windy City Bulls in December 2016; a little younger than Joe Harris when he was signed as a free agent in July 2016. Neither of them were instant successes when they joined Brooklyn. It was fits and starts just as it has been with TLC.

His contract won’t be fully guaranteed until February 27. Assuming he builds on his success, the Nets can use his Early Bird Rights to sign him outside the cap — another team-friendly aspect to the deal he signed in January, He certainly has fans on the roster.

“Tim played really well [Monday],” LeVert said of him, as reported by Mollie Walker. “Being confident, knocking down shots. That’s not easy to do. Especially what he did [Sunday], sitting the whole game and then coming in and knocking down three huge threes. I think it was three threes he made in that game, and then [Monday], same thing. As soon as he checked in the game, he shoots his next shot as if the last shot didn’t happen.

“All you can ask of a shooter is a short memory, and just let it fly. I think he’s done a great job of just getting better since he’s been with us and he’s expanded his game a little bit as well.”

Now, with Dinwiddie out, he’ll get a chance to expand it further.