When James Harden watches Cam Thomas, he sees some of himself — except the Nets rookie is more advanced than he was entering the NBA.
“Obviously Cam was a much better scorer than I was coming out of college,” Harden said on Thursday.
The 6-foot-5 Thomas, a one-and-done first-round pick (27th overall) out of LSU, scored 21 points in his preseason debut Sunday, after shining during summer league. Thomas was the co-MVP in Las Vegas, sharing the honors with Kings point guard Davion Mitchell, and has picked up in training camp where he left off.
At the end of Thursday’s practice, Thomas was working with Harden and Kevin Durant, two superstar scorers he is hoping to one day emulate. Thomas has impressed Harden not just with his offensive skill set, but also with his work habits.
“It’s just rare you get those guys who can just get a bucket in any form or fashion,” Harden said of Thomas, who averaged 23.0 points last season in his one year of college. “But he’s young, he learns, he listens and he works his butt off. As a young guy, that’s all you can ask for.”
Harden is very high on newcomers DeAndre’ Bembry, James Johnson and Jevon Carter, three defense-minded players who should help the Nets off the bench.
“Those guys are definitely bringing something to the team that we didn’t have last year, and that’s versatility as a wing and as a point guard,” Harden said.
Head coach Steve Nash liked what he saw from forward Paul Millsap in the preseason opener against the Lakers. Milsap, a 6-foot-7 veteran who joined the Nets in early September, had 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 18 minutes.
“He does a lot of things and offers a lot to our team and I think a little bit of versatility gives him a slightly different profile,” Nash said.
Nash declined to say who will play in Friday’s preseason game at Barclays Center against the Bucks. In the opener, Harden, Durant, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Joe Harris, Patty Mills and Johnson were all held out. Nash did say you could expect a few of them to play, like Johnson.