Henry Ellenson & Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot Bring Experience to Brooklyn Nets' Two-Way Spot

Pair will play for Long Island and Brooklyn with a combined 247 games of NBA experience

Henry Ellenson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were both first-round draft picks in 2016, selected six spots apart. They are in close proximity once more for the 2019-20 season, having both joined the Brooklyn Nets on two-way contracts.

“They’re young, development pieces,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “Maybe it didn’t go perfect in their first go-round, but they’re still very young. They fit our style of play. High-character guys. The short time we’ve had them they’ve played well. Just another shot at it and another shot at a developing young player.”

Both players are in their fourth season of NBA service, the last year that players are eligible for two-way contracts. Last season, the Nets used one of the spots on a player who fit that profile in forward Alan Williams, while the other two-way went to rookie Theo Pinson, now on Brooklyn’s 15-man roster.

In Ellenson and Luwawu-Cabarrot, with a combined 247 games of NBA experience, the Nets opted for two players that give them a little bit of extra depth in the short term, but also offer upside. Luwawu-Cabarrot is 24. Ellenson, drafted after one season at Marquette, is 22 years old and would be a rookie this season if he had spent four years in college, as Pinson did. Both players have seen some G League action on assignment, and this year they’re expected contribute significantly for the Long Island Nets as two-way players are limited to 45 days with the NBA squad while the G League season is in progress.

With Long Island starting its season this week while the Nets are on a five-game road trip, both players are traveling with Brooklyn when the flexibility of shuttling players between Brooklyn and Nassau County disappears with the NBA squad on the other side of the country.

Drafted at 19 years old by a Detroit team coming off a playoff berth, Ellenson found himself behind Tobias Harris first, and then Blake Griffin after a blockbuster trade during the 2017-18 season. He ended up playing 59 games for the Pistons over two-plus seasons, then finished up the 2018-19 season with the Knicks.

“I learned a lot from them,” said Ellenson of playing behind talented veterans, “but opportunity was not as much, and so for me it’s just being patient, just working hard every day, making sure I put in my time, whatever it takes to get better, and then being ready for any opportunity I got. Going to New York, I got a chance at the end of the season and go play and it was nice to be able to play well. My first three years in the league definitely has been challenging in a sense that I haven’t been able to be on the court. But I’m happy with the way I’ve responded to those adversities just by being myself and being the gym every day.”

A 6-foot-10 forward and center, Ellenson offers the potential of a floor-spacing big, shooting 44.7 percent from 3-point range in 19 games last year.

Brooklyn appealed to Ellenson from the way they’ve used and treated their two-way players in the past, particularly the way Pinson graduated from a two-way deal to a full NBA contract. And if that means major minutes in the G League as part of the process, he’s fine with that just to get back on the court in a big way.

“That’s something I’m excited about too just because not being able to play for three years and being a guy who’s never used to that in my life and then having three years where I really haven’t played that much, I’m just excited about the chances just to go play,” said Ellenson. “I’m a basketball player, but I just love playing the game too. I’m excited about that and knowing I’ll be getting those minutes.”

Luwawu-Cabarrot is a 6-foot-7 swingman with a unique tie to Long Island head coach Shaun Fein; they played for the same club in France when Luwawu-Cabarrot began his professional career as a teenager with the junior club at Antibes.

“He was the vet, I was the young guy getting involved in the team,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Getting to know how to be a professional. That was my first step as a pro when he was there. He helped me a lot, gave me advice. Also lead by example. You see the guy come in early morning, staying late after practice. Always take care of his body. Always do his routine. When you see a guy like that working out, not that he was old, but being around 30s keeping his routine and taking care of his body is big for a young guy especially being overseas we don’t usually see that. It helped me to know how to be a professional.”

After three years with Antibes, Luwawu-Cabarrot played one season in Serbia before being drafted by Philadelphia in 2016. After two seasons with the Sixers, where he started 19 games as a rookie, Luwawu-Cabarrot split last season between Oklahoma City and Chicago.

“Pretty much went through everything — starting five, last guy on the bench, sixth man, role player, everything,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Everybody has got a different path. I’m just enjoying it. I love it here. I’m just trying to stay here as long as I can and be as good as I can. Trying to work every day. That’s what I’ve done for three years. Now I’m just trying to show it and that two-way contract is good because I’m going to actually show everybody what I can do in the G League and try to be the best player in the G League and then come back and I have something to build with the Nets.”

Luwawu-Cabarrot was in training camp with Cleveland this fall before being waived, and officially signed with the Nets on the day of their season-opener, Oct. 23. He said Brooklyn was the only organization he would have considered a two-way with, partly because of his history with Fein, but also the organization’s track record of keeping two-way players involved with the NBA team. Brooklyn has a player development coach dedicated to managing two-way players and their development and transitions between the NBA and G League.

“As soon as I stepped in the facility here, they welcomed me as a member of the family and the brotherhood,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “That’s also what I like. It gave me this good feeling about this organization and this team, so I’m happy to be here.”

With their experience in the NBA and the G League, Atkinson expects both Ellenson and Luwawu-Cabarrot to be leaders with Long Island, which has an entirely new roster after winning the Eastern Conference last season.

“That’s huge,” said Atkinson. “Those guys have been around. They’ll be the leaders for Long Island. They’ll be with us sometimes. Excited about both of them.”

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