The bubble has presented opportunities for many young Nets players to make a case to be on next season’s roster. For Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, he is making a case to be the Nets latest two-way success story.
His time in the “bubble” has been up-and-down. On Sunday, the 25-year-old got into early foul trouble (not the first time) and played only 16 minutes before fouling out, winding up with three points, four rebounds and two assists, hitting one of his two 3-point attempts.
Still, teams have to take TLC’s shooting into consideration. Although getting in foul trouble often, Luwawu-Cabarrot is providing a scoring punch with a 3-and-D presence, highlighted by his career-high (and Nes game high) 26 points in 31 minutes against the Bucks. It was his first start as a Net. In the six games he’s played —one of the few Nets to play in all their “bubble” games, Luwawu-Cabarrot has shot 14-of-24, 41.2 percent, from deep and 46.2 percent overall.
“Seems like he’s in a good rhythm,” Vaughn said of Luwawu-Cabarrot after that game. “We’ll continue to put him in positions where he can take advantage of his speed and shooting ability.”
“I just let the game come to me and didn’t force anything” he said post-game. “So it was a good opportunity for me.”
Vaughn in fact has used TLC as both a 3 and a small ball 4, taking advantage of his defense as well as offense.
Luwawu-Cabarrot’s story is only one part of the Nets G League “bubble” story. He’s one of SEVEN active Nets players who spent time in the G League this year. In addition to TLC, who played 10 games, Rodions Kurucs (nine games), Dzanan Musa (12 games), Chris Chiozza (20 games), Justin Anderson (31 games), Jeremiah Martin (37 games) and Donta Hall (38 games) all put in time down on the “farm.” That’s half the team and 128 games! Nicolas Claxton, who was injured in his last game with Long Island, played eight games as well.
TLC (and Anderson) are a bit different from the others and a case study of what to expect from the Nets G League strategy in the future. He had played 170 NBA games before he signed the two-way deal. After playing for four teams in four years, including some time in the G League, Luwawu-Cabarrot found his next opportunity, signing a two-way contract with the Nets on Opening Night of the Nets season. Ironically, it reunited him with an old teammate and mentor: Shaun Fein, the head coach of the Long Island Nets.
When Luwawu-Cabarrot was a rising teenage prospect with Antibes in the French League, Fein was the team’s veteran guard back in 2013-14. At Long Island Nets media day back in November, Cabarrot explained how his former teammate played a big role in his decision to put pen to paper on his new opportunity.
“Oh definitely,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said when asked if reuniting with Fein played a role in his decision. “That was definitely in the process of making a decision. We have always been friends and we always get together. I’ve been in the league for three years and every time I was coming back to Brooklyn, I was looking for him and trying to say hello because we have a great relationship.”
As for Fein, he always kept note of Luwawu-Cabarrot’s potential. The Nets head coach noted his skillset at the wing position while his defense could set him apart from other wings.
“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.”
As we’ve noted, the signing signaled a change for the Nets in their G League strategy. Both he and Henry Ellenson, the Nets other two-way signing in the off-season, had NBA experience.
No longer would the Nets use Long Island as a pure development play, as they had in the past. With their eyes on the prize, they were taking a look at players who could help if injuries hit the roster (Spoiler Alert: they did) or who might prove to be another reclamation project like G League pick-ups Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.
Luwawu-Cabarrot has credited the organization for their two-way development and acknowledged he would be spending good time in Uniondale. In addition, he did not want to test playing overseas in Europe, where he would have made more money.
“I wanted to still keep a foot in the NBA,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “The Nets always gave their two-ways an opportunity to play and that was the goal. I am just trying to get better with everything I work on. In the G League, be a leader of the team, try to do something good with the team.”
Like many of the Nets past two-way contract players, he had NBA experience but there was an aspect of his game or two that needed work. In his case, it 3-point shooting. Although attempting fewer than four attempts per game before coming to the Nets, his best 3-point shooting percentage in a season came at 33.5 percent back in 2017-18 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. That along with his defense became a focus of the development staff.
With Long Island, Luwawu-Cabarrot quickly established a name for himself. In fact, he only needed 10 games for the parent club to bring him up. His biggest performance came on November 23. The native of suburban Paris finished with a near triple-double in a buzzer beating loss to the Canton Charge, the Cavs G League affiliate.
Luwawu-Cabarrot finished with 35 points, grabbing 15 boards, and handing out seven assists. The 6’7” small forward shot 14-of-20 overall and 4-of-6 from deep in the loss.
Following consistent outings in Long Island, Luwawu-Cabarrot hit the parent club’s rotation, eventually becoming one of Kenny Atkinson’s favorite options off the bench. His minutes increased and due to restrictions under a two-way contract, his 45 day limit expired, which led the Nets to signing the 6’7” small forward to two 10-day contracts, preserving their rights to him.
Then came the news … after improving his defense and averaging 5.2 points per game in 15.3 minutes, posting career highs in field goal percentage (44.8 percent) and three-point shooting (43.1 percent), the Nets inked Luwawu-Cabarrot to a standard deal, filling their open roster spot.
According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the 6’7” swingman will be paid $632,000 for the remainder of this season and $1.8 million, the minimum, next season, which is non-guaranteed.
A couple of contract notes from today:— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 8, 2020
Year 2 for Norvel Pelle is $0 protection with an early July trigger date that becomes full
Year 2 for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is $0 protection that increases to $150K in early August and $250 by the first game of the season
Those dates, of course, have been moved up because of the pandemic.
Now, inside the bubble, Luwawu-Cabarrot has exemplified the Nets “next man up” mentality and their reliance on the G Leaague. He’s emerged as a valuable role player in the Nets rotation. So much so that Antoine Griezmann, hero of France’s World Cup win in 2018, took note of his contributions in explaining to fellow Frenchmen why they should root for the Nets...
In the Bucks game, he not only led the Nets in scoring, he hit two big 3-pointers putting the Nets up by five with 2:31 remaining. Luwawu-Cabarrot also grabbed three rebounds, and handed one assist in the win.
Now with 45 games as a Net under Luwawu-Cabarrot’s belt, he has made quite the impression that he belongs in the NBA. He is posting career-highs in field goal percentage (42 percent), three-point shooting (37 percent), and bordering a career-high in free throw shooting (84 percent). In addition to his career-best shooting, the 6’7” swingman is averaging 7.3 points (career-high), 2.5 rebounds, and 0.6 assists in 17.8 minutes per game.