Cam Thomas hasn’t missed this much time due to injury in his career. Three weeks of waiting, healing and being antsy to hit the court.
Thursday's game against the Hornets will mark his return after missing the previous nine with a sprained ankle. It’s more good news for a Nets team that fought through a slew of injuries since Cam Johnson was hurt in the season opener.
“It’s good just to be able to be back out there and playing,” Thomas said at shootaround. “Missed [nine games] so it's good to finally be back and get in the rhythm of the things and trying to pick up where I left off at.”
Where he left off was averaging 26.9 points and being among the league’s leading scorers before getting hurt Nov. 8 against the Clippers. He’d still rank 10th in scoring if he qualified with enough games played.
In eight games, including seven as a starter, he had four games with at least 30 points, including a 45-point game against the Bucks. The third-year guard made strides in other areas, including rebounding and defense, to earn more trust from coach Jacque Vaughn.
Thomas said he’s fine being on a minutes limit. Since the Nets didn’t practice much this month, he spent time playing against video coordinators or assistants during shootaround and practicing with the team’s G League affiliate.
“I should be fine. Obviously, your rhythm is going to be off, you ain’t played in three weeks,” Thomas said. “But as far as my flow and the team, how they’re playing, I should just fit right in where I left off at.”
The Nets have found multiple players besides Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to pick up Thomas’ scoring load. Although the offense went from 8th to 10th in offensive rating since Thomas got hurt, they increased from 114.5 points per 100 possessions on Nov. 8 to 116.9 points in the games Thomas missed.
Lonnie Walker IV is averaging 15.1 points off the bench and Spencer Dinwiddie has three 20-point games in his previous four appearances. Royce O’Neale is coming off consecutive games with six three-pointers. But Thomas’ ability to score at all three levels stands unique on the team and it’s why Bridges and Dinwiddie at times have called him the team’s best scorer.
He has the ability to not just make tough shots, but excel at creating his shots while staying hot from anywhere on the court, especially in the mid-range.
“It’s good to have another guy out there,” Bridges said. “Just puts more pressure. It adds to the team and that shows the depth that we have.”
It’s also just the second time the Nets have both Thomas and Johnson healthy. That adds new wrinkles to the offense where Johnson’s three-point shooting spaces the floor and allows more room for Thomas to get shots.
Should Thomas come off the bench, it gives the Nets two great shot creators with him and Walker that defenses have to account for. Thomas made clear he won’t be changing his approach to fit back in as he’ll still be thinking to score first if he gets the chance.
“I'm not concerned. I'm gonna play my game, no matter what. So, it is what it is,” Thomas said.
For Thomas, it continues one of the season’s best stories - where he once stood among the NBA’s elite scorers. He also admired how gritty the Nets were and how there’s so much balance and depth, with players able to play multiple roles.
It’ll help him feel at ease fitting back in and he doesn’t think it’ll take long to resume his potent role within the offense.