LAS VEGAS — The Nets finished off a practice session at Clark High School just a few minutes off the Las Vegas strip and spoke glowingly about the work that the group assembled for the NBA Summer League was putting in and the attitude and culture being established.
What they couldn’t say for certain was the role that any of these players will have when the regular season begins with the team still in limbo as it seeks to appease the trade request of Kevin Durant and its own desire to move on from Kyrie Irving. So on hand here were young players like Cam Thomas and Kessler Edwards, hoping to improve on their rookie seasons, and shortly after the practice was over the team officially announced the signing of T.J. Warren and the re-signing of Nic Claxton. But the most important roster pieces remain a mystery.
With talks rising throughout the league that Deandre Ayton is not willing to wait for the Nets to try to make a deal with Phoenix and likely to sign an offer sheet with another team — possibly Indiana — the top team from Durant’s wish list could be out of the mix to find a workable trade. And that left the situation even more clouded than it was a week ago.
So some, like Thomas, have had some contact with Durant through texts, but mostly, like everyone else, they are watching and waiting.
“I mean, it is what it is,” Thomas said. “But it’s part of the business. They have their decisions, they'll make them. But you know, I'm just focusing on summer league at this point.”
“We’re just coming to work, getting better,” said Nets assistant coach Adam Caporn, who is serving as head coach of the summer league squad. “I’ve felt their attitude, their commitment has been great. They’re locked in. You can feel that from them.”
Asked if he had talked to the team at all about the distractions of Durant and Irving, Caporn said he had not and didn’t plan to. If the roles are uncertain for everyone right now, he is approaching it as he would if things were stable.
“Well, that’s not what I’m focused on right now,” Caporn said. “We’ve got a team, we’re trying to help them get better. We’re trying to give them all an opportunity to show what they can do and put them in a position to succeed. That’s a discussion for a lot of people later on.”
Thomas acknowledged that as a rookie he’d leaned on Durant and Irving for guidance and now that may be gone.
“Yeah, just him and Kyrie really, I connected with those two a lot,” Thomas said. “So those two are my brothers no matter what happens. I still call them or text them on something. So you know, it is what it is. It’s part of the business. Hopefully, everything works out in our favor. But you know, you’ve just got to move on with life. It is what it is.”
With the possibility of moving on without those two, Thomas is trying to ready himself for a larger role. Already an accomplished scorer as a rookie, he is trying to expand - on the court and off.
“Cam’s gotten so much better,” Caporn said. “Really proud of him, working really hard. He can score, he’s an elite scorer, he’s going to score and we’re going to put the ball in his hand. I know he’s really grown as a defender and he’s a guy that he’ll just make a lot of good decisions, underrated passer, willing passer. I think he’s done a good job leading this group. The last couple of days he’s practiced really hard, had a great attitude. I think the leadership responsibilities are the things that grow the most in the second year.”