In an hour-long podcast interview with Zach Schumaker of “The SchuZ Show,” Cam Thomas once again showed off that supreme confidence that helped him score 40+ points in three straight games, saying if given the ball, he believes he could average 25 points a game in the NBA.
Shumaker asked the Nets third-year guard how many points he thinks he could average as “the guy” with the ball in hands over 82 games. Thomas was quick with a response.
”Ball in my hand? 25 ... 25 no doubt, easy,” said Thomas with a big smile. “And that’s just me having confidence in my ability, knowing what I can bring.”
He might be right. In the 15 games where Thomas played 25 or more minutes this past season, he averaged 26.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 48/50/90 shooting splits. The Nets were 6-9 in those games.
Thomas’ confidence was on display throughout the hour in which he seemed fully at easy, not the serious Cam fans have seen so much of. He talked about everything from his brand — “ain’t shit funny” — to his hope that he’ll be a rotation player in his third year to his “irritation” with inconsistent minutes last season to how he investigated the possibility of eventually playing for the Japanese national team, noting he was born in Japan while his mother, who’s career military, was stationed near Tokyo. He even named Day’Ron Sharpe his funniest teammate.
About his brand — and he did seek a trademark for an “ain’t shit funny” clothing line — Thomas said he was shocked when the term went viral last season when asked by the media, why so serious?
“I was never expecting it to go viral, because I always said it. I always said the same thing no matter what somebody asked me, I always said it ... I was not expecting that at all.” he noted.
He spoke as well about the development of his “killer mentality.”
“I gained the killer mentality that everybody talks about. Killa Cam mentality, to keep scoring, keep going. When I was younger, I might be the guy to score 20, back off and let everyone else do theirs but then I had people in my corner going, ‘keep going, keep killing, keep going.’ So I was like ‘I gotta get that mentality.’”
Much of the interview though was about his three straight 40+ point games between the time Kyrie Irving issued his trade demand and the arrival of four players from the Kyrie and Kevin Durant trades in early February. He set a number of NBA records in the stint during which the undermanned Nets went 1-2. Thomas also scored 46 in the final game of the season and 33 in the Nets bench’s improbable win over the Pacers, 21 of them in the fourth quarter.
One of those three games, Thomas hit 43 points vs. the Suns and Mikal- us Bridges two days before Bridges was traded to the Nets for Kevin Durant. Has Thomas spoke to Bridges about the game? asked Schumaker.
“No, no, not at all. It was just me being locked in on my streak and then he was traded two days later,“ replied Thomas, smiling. “We haven’t really talked about it. Obviously, I’m pretty sure that they respected it, respected my game after that. It was really just a blessing in disguise.”
Bridges has spoken about it, noting on the Paul George podcast that his impression of Thomas changed between that game and his arrival in Brooklyn.
“Before I got there, I’m looking at him and some of the shots he’s taking, I’m thinking ‘whatever.’ Then, I got there and I saw ... the first day I got there and I was shooting with him... I love all that moving left and shooting fades, really fading.”
Indeed, Thomas said respect of his peers is something that he values above everything and he believes he has that. The rest, he said, doesn’t matter to him.
Thomas did explain his public “irritation” at inconsistent minutes after the scoring streak, getting DNP-CDs in five out of 10 games in March and limited minutes in three others. Thomas declined to criticize anyone.
“I never really doubted myself,” he said. “it was just me being irritated. I proved time and time again that I’m an NBA player. I can play in the rotation consistently, whether starting, coming off the bench, whatever. My rookie year, I showed that when everybody was out, when we were losing because everyone was hurt and stuff I showed I could play. I averaged like 18 that month and then this past year averaging like 30 in a month, just showing I can play at this level and I know I can contribute to a team.”
Thomas who praised Jacque Vaughn for bringing the team together after the Nets poor start said he and the head coach have not yet talked about what Vaughn wants from him, but he expected the two would sit down “eventually.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s something for me to see this year. Obviously that’s a conversation we [Jacque Vaughn] gotta have. Year three is a pivotal year for anybody in their career. So I feel like that’s a conversation we’re gonna have eventually.
“Just knowing what he wants from me, knowing what I can provide for the team this year,” he explained.
“No matter what it is, I just want to put my best foot forward and keep working hard and just show that I can be a consistent player in the rotation no matter what. And I feel I have shown that no matter what, so whatever happens, happens. I just want to control what I can control.”
Like other Nets. Thomas had praise for Sean Marks.
“It’s a great relationship,” he said in answer to a Shumaker question. “He’s done a great job of identifying players in certain roles. I feel like he’s one of the best at his job and I’m glad that he’s our GM, honestly.
“We’re in a good spot, we have a good place to go and a good place to build on for years to come... He’s a great GM.”
He also liked Marks signing of his teammate at LSU, Trendon Watford.
“He’s a talented player, can dribble, pass, rebound. He can do everything on the court. So just being that Swiss army knife for us. I’m excited to play with him. He makes the game easy for me as a scorer.”
On the possibility of playing for Japan in the future, Thomas said that he investigated but never followed through on it. Thomas and his mother left Japan when he was one year old.
“I honestly have a little interest in it,” said Thomas, noting those close to him have discussed it with him. “I think my team has looked into it. I don’t really know the details about it but I think my team has looked into it. But either USA or Japan. Maybe one of these years in my career, I’d play in the World Cup, the Olympics, whatever. So, I just want to have that goal open for either team.”
He also spoke about how he believes that Ben Simmons, whose locker is next to his, will meet expectations.
“This upcoming year, he’ll be back, he’ll be better and I feel he will really help us as a team,” adding his voice to the growing chorus Nets players and executives offering a positive view of the three-time All-Star. “I can’t wait to see Ben be back to who he was before everything.”
And if things don’t work out?
“I really just try to approach it as me trying to earn my spot no matter what… If the coach decides to play me he does, if he don’t, he don’t. I just know that I put my best foot forward.”
As for his expectations this year, Thomas told Shumaker that he just wanted to improve, as he did last year, going from 27.0% in 3-point shooting to 38.3% and showing that he can pass ... if needed.
“I just want to keep improving,” he said. “I don’t have no expectations because you never know that can happen in the season. So I just keep my head down and try to play the best that I can. I feel me playing the best that I can is good enough.”
- Nets’ Cam Thomas opens up on Sean Marks, Jacque Vaughn relationship following late-season benching - Erik Slater - Clutch Points