Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot hit rock bottom last October. After a training camp and preseason with the lowly Cavaliers, he was waived. The 24-year-old had played four years with four teams after being taken at No. 24 in the 2016. Now he was out of a job ... but not out of advocates.
A week later, he signed a two-way deal with Brooklyn, reuniting him with Shaun Fein, the Long Island head coach. When TLC had joined Antibes in the French League as a teenager, Fein was the team’s veteran.
Fein knew Luwawu-Cabarrot’s potential as did others in Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Chicago but he also knew his issues.
“He is a skilled wing that can play multiple positions,” Fein noted. “He’s got good ball handling skills as well. Play him in the pick-and-roll and make some good reads out of that.
“I think the biggest thing for him is defensively. I think he has the size, strength, and the quickness to guard multiple positions. I think if he focuses on that, he could get the results he wants.”
There were other issues as well. Luwawu-Cabarrot had never shot better than 33.5 percent from deep. You’re not going to make it in the NBA as a 2 or 3 without a reliable 3-pointer,
The Nets liked what they saw and TLC was the beneficiary of a change in the Nets G League philosophy. Instead of signing undrafted diamonds in the rough, Sean Marks et al decided to use two-ways as a vehicle to give young vets a second-chance.
With more than 170 NBA games on his resume’, he fit the bill. Did they foresee him fitting another bill, as a development success? No one was saying it publicly but Luwawu-Cabarrot has something in common with Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell. He had been unceremoniously dumped by a bad team and developed — reclaimed as Brian Lewis wrote Monday — by the Nets.
Now, fast forward to today. After a solid stint in the G League, injuries to other wings —most notably David Nwaba; two 10-days; the trade deadline and finally, a standard NBA contract; Luwawu-Cabarrot is a trusted part of the Nets rotation.
The numbers tell the story. TLC is shooting 41.2 percent from three this season. His best season before this, he shot 33.5. Last season, he shot a miserable 22.7 for OKC, and a mere 33.0 for CHI. This is also the first season his effective field goal percentage is above 50 (53.5). For the month of February, he’s at 42.9 ... and his 96.4 defensive rating is the best among rotation players.
Saturday was his best performance so far: 21 points and four rebounds in 23 minutes. He shot 7-of-12 overall, 4-of-7 from three. Equally impressive was his ability to recover from four fouls in the first half and play solid defense, guarding Devonte Graham when Caris LeVert was on the bench.
“They were making fun of me for having four fouls at halftime. But I said if we’re winning by 20 or 30, shoot, I’ll foul out,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot.
He like the reclamation projects before him loves it in Brooklyn and thinks the team can compete against the best.
“Of course. They gave me that role and I embrace it: I love it,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “I love to go out there and compete and play super-hard. We have a lineup where we really have something to do together...
“We want more. That’s what’s big here. We want more than what we have right now,” he added. “We’re hungry. We want it, we really really want to compete and prove ourselves and prove a lot of things.”
At 24, Luwawu-Cabarrot is a little older than Spencer 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 the summer of 2016. Neither of them were instant successes when they joined Brooklyn. It was fits and starts just as it has been with TLC.
Will he rise like they did, win an All-Star Break skills competition, lead the league in a shooting —or defensive category? Too early to tell, but the Nets set themselves up quite nicely, thank you very much, if he does. The contract he signed earlier this month is team-friendly contract, just as Dinwiddie’s and Harris’ first deals.
It’s guaranteed for the rest of this season at $654,000, the pro-rated vets minimum. Next year, it’s a partially guaranteed vets minimum deal. If he’s still on the team on August 1, he gets a guarantee of $150,000 and if he makes it till January 10, his $1.82 million is guaranteed through the end of the season. Then in the summer of 2021, the Nets will have his Early Bird Rights. That’s called planning.
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot could be Nets’ next reclamation project win - Brian Lewis - New York Post