As the NBA season nears resumption, the Nets’ shorthanded squad of replacements is looking to surprise — united by one commonality — they each have something to prove.
For Jamal Crawford and Lance Thomas, specifically, this opportunity might represent their last chance to prove they belong in the league. Crawford and Thomas have both had successful careers, now entering their twentieth (!) and ninth NBA seasons, respectively while accumulating roughly $146 million in combined on-court earnings.
At this point in their careers, the two veterans are simply playing for the love of the game. For them, despite not playing in any game all season, they stayed ready and waiting. Basketball is their lifestyle.
“Just staying in love with the game. When you’re in love with it, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, whether be it cold tubs, or massages, acupuncture, whatever it might be.” Crawford told reporters.
“I think when you love the game purely all those things you’re willing to do is sacrifice. I love it purely, and I think that’s the only reason I’m still playing at this point.”
The more taciturn Thomas, speaking about his own readiness, added, “Staying in shape is a lifestyle for me.”
Both Crawford and Thomas have reputations as consummate professionals in the league, and not so ironically, the two new acquisitions also are FOKs (friends of Kevin — & Kyrie — for those less familiar with NetsDaily jargon) — just like Michael Beasley, who the Nets signed then had to waive after he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Crawford, who says he’s been watching the Nets play all season and is a fan of the group Sean Marks has put together, told the media a few days back that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are in fact two of his closes friends in the NBA fraternity.
“Kevin and Ky are probably two of my closest friends in the league so I watch them and support them anyway,” Crawford revealed.
And when Crawford made his first appearance in Nets sweats last week, KD posted this on Instagram...
Durant once called Thomas, a former teammate of his in Oklahoma City, his “favorite player and favorite person in the league.”
While Crawford and Thomas had reps as elite locker room veterans, Michael Beasley’s was anything but. The Nets were (and are) extremely shorthanded and there’s no doubt Beasley’s prowess as a scorer would’ve helped, however, given Marks’ usual concern with conserving the team’s culture, it was a bit surprising.
Then again, Durant and Beasley have known each other since they were 10 and 11 years in Prince Georges County, Maryland. Beasley, in fact, has described Durant was “his first real friend.”
That relationship —as well as the others— lead some fans to believe that Beasley’s relationship with Durant played a part in influencing the signing, although said he didn’t consult with his superstar. (Of course, KD certainly had to be pleased by the move.) There’s a good chance it isn’t a coincidence that all three of these veterans have close relationships with the Nets stars.
The Nets are “contenders in waiting” and there’s an expectation that KD and Kyrie could heavily influence roster moves this off-season. It’s fair to expect a few more vets with connections to Brooklyn’s stars on the bench next season. Maybe even Crawford, Thomas, and even Beasley.
The Orlando “bubble” serves as the perfect opportunity for Crawford and Thomas to prove their value — both on and off the court. For a star laden team like Brooklyn’s with two polarizing stars in Durant and Irving, the Nets would be well served to invest in some respected veterans like Crawford and/or Thomas at the back end of the roster.
They just need to prove they have something left on the court. Watch this space.