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It’s almost official: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is latest Nets reclamation success

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Brooklyn Nets v Orlando Magic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The sample may be a little on the small side, but Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s performance in the “bubble” —and in the weeks before the shutdown— seems to have made the 6’7” Frenchman the latest in a string of Nets successes in player development ... turning players others thought were done into productive members of Brooklyn’s rotation or more.

On Monday, he was the Nets bright spot in an otherwise forgettable evening. He tallied 26 points in his first post-season appearance, equaling his regular season career high and going 6-of-9 from deep, the six makes tying a team record for the post-season.

Since the Nets arrived in the “bubble” and discounting the three scrimmages, TLC is averaging 15.7 points in nine games along with 4.8 rebounds. He is shooting 50 percent (29-of-58) from deep and overall, he’s 54/50/86 in the nine games, the eight seeding games plus Tuesday’s loss to Toronto. (Over the last three, he’s averaging 23 points and shooting 58 percent from deep.)

Even before the hiatus, he was playing well, with 13 points in the win over the Lakers on March 10 and 16 in the Celtics overtime win a week earlier.

“I’ve just been in the weight room. I’ve put on some muscle. It’s about playing basketball. If I’m able to play defense at power forward and, that’s the way to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot, who joined the Nets on a two-way deal on Opening Night, then signed to two-year, non-guaranteed deal on February 7.

“Nobody knows how much I’ve worked, how much I’ve come through, how I got waived, signed a two-way, had to fight my way back into the league. It’s just all the work I’ve put in during quarantine and during the past two years and all the confidence [I got] throughout these workouts. I like the team and my teammates, so, this is big-time.”

TLC has said that when he was waived by the lowly Cavaliers on cutdown day back in October he knew he could get a lucrative deal overseas, but wanted one last shot at the NBA ... much like Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and even D’Angelo Russell before him.

As the numbers show, it’s worked so far. Yes, he has been inconsistent with some stinkers mixed in with highlight packages and yes, he has been foul-prone, forced to leave two games in Orlando, but it’s beyond the numbers, says Caris LeVert.

“We know what TLC is capable of. We know he’s a great shooter and slasher, as well,” Caris LeVert said. “His IQ is growing each and every game defensively, and he’s just being more consistent. He’s very confident out there. We’re telling him to continue shooting the basketball regardless of makes or misses. We trust in him.”

“It’s great to see him be consistent over the course of these games, and we’re gonna need it for the rest of these playoffs.”

Jacque Vaughn added, “TLC gave us great minutes, we ended up starting him in the second half because of Rodi’s foul trouble, but you see him playing with an incredible amount of confidence.”

That contract the Nets gave the 25-year-old could wind up to be a bargain. ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported at the time that TLC will be paid $632,000 for this season (on top of what he got as a 10-day) and $1.8 million, the minimum, next. Next year’s salary, Marks tweeted, was non-guaranteed. Later, it was disclosed that he has two partial guarantee dates, one for $150,000 during the off-season and another $250,000 on Opening Night ... if he makes a final likely crowded roster.

Others have noticed TLC’s improvement. Zach Lowe, following Brooklyn’s loss to Portland, wrote “the Nets may have found something,” citing his improved 3-point shooting in the “bubble” and his 38.7 percent shooting from deep for the season. That’s considerably better than his best previous year, 33.5 in his second year with Philly.

In many ways, Luwawu-Cabarrot’s journey resembles others the Nets have watched and guided. Dinwiddie had been waived by Chicago and was toiling with the Windy City Bulls. Harris was a man without a team in the summer of 2016 after being traded by the Cavaliers, then cut by the Magic on the same day he went under the knife for an broken ankle. DLo was different but his confidence was a bit shot when he joined Brooklyn.

After 10 games as a two-way with Long Island, the Nets called him up, but as a two-way, he could only spend 45 days with Brooklyn. Once that limit was exhausted at the end of January, the Nets signed him to two 10-days, preserving their rights to him. Then after the trade deadline passed, Sean Marks signed him to the two-year deal.

This is TLC’s fifth stop on the NBA journey. He played two years for the 76ers who drafted him four spots after LeVert in 2016. Then in the 2018 off-season, he was traded to the Thunder in a three-team deal involving the 76ers and Hawks, At the deadline last year, he was moved again, to the Bulls. A free agent, he signed a training camp contract with Cleveland but after appearing in two preseason games, he was dumped only to be picked up by the Nets a week later.

Why is he doing so much better now? He’s gotten more of a chance, first of all, and taken advantage of it. Despite being a two-way then a 10-day then on hiatus, he’s racked up career highs in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage as well as points and rebounds per game. Another reason may be the Nets also assigned him to work with Long Island’s head coach Shaun Fein who had been his teammate when TLC was a teenager in the French League.

“We have always been friends and we always get together,” Luwawu-Cabarrot told our Chris Milholen back in November. “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.”

TLC added that he chose Brooklyn over other offers because of the Nets reputation for handling two-way deals. Fein noted that as well.

“I am happy for Timothe,” Fein added. “I think its a great opportunity for him to be in Brooklyn. We have a great track record of getting those two-way guys better and developing them. He is a former first-round pick and he has talent. So I think we can do some good things when he is in Long Island. Brooklyn will do a great job with him.”

And so far, indeed they have.