Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had to concede that, no, he never has played center. A little stretch 4 now and then is as much as he’s tried to push it. And while the Nets may be thin in the middle for the upcoming NBA restart with both DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton unavailable, you shouldn’t expect to see the versatile, 6-foot-7 wing setting up in the paint.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t see something different from the Nets when they get back on the court, something head coach Jacque Vaughn laid out the other day. And Luwawu-Cabarrot has made a role for himself this season being anything the Nets have needed him to be. In Orlando, that could mean minutes at the 4 with Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince out also.
“I think we’re going to play super-fast, super-quick, we have a young team with a couple of veterans,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “My role is going to stay the same, I’m just going to help more in the paint and stay out there with (Jarrett Allen), sometimes have to do the dirty job that they do.”
Signed just days before the season opener, Luwawu-Cabarrot began the season on a two-way contract, eventually grabbed a full roster spot with a pair of 10-day contracts in January, then was briefly off the roster while the Nets navigated some transactional and roster deadlines before being signed to a multi-year deal in early February.
"He really came into form,” said Vaughn. “From a coaching perspective, his ability to defend was really pleasing for us, his ability to show strength, that he could defend multiple positions. And really out of pretty much all the guys that stayed in market, he's in really good shape. I'm looking forward to seeing the work that he's put in, kind of test it when we get to Orlando for sure."
Luwawu-Cabarrot made a few NBA cameos over the season’s first eight weeks, playing primarily in in the G League, where he averaged 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 10 games.
On Long Island, Luwawu-Cabbarrot had a familiar face in head coach Shaunn Feinn, who had been a teammate in France when Luwawu-Cabarrot first turned pro. There was also hands-on guidance from player development coach Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who works closely with Brooklyn’s two-way players and any players on assignment moving between Brooklynn and Long Island.
“Was huge to have him around, talking to me, even though it was his first year he was worried about the team more than he was about my personal,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot back in February about playing for Fein. “It was great to have him around. Ryan’s been awesome. Talks to me every day, keep me involved every day. Make sure I was focused the whole time for practice, for games, either in the G League or with the NBA, whether I was playing or not. Just always on my back and keeping me focused all the time.”
When injuries opened the door to minutes in Brooklyn in mid-December, Luwawu-Cabarrot instantly claimed a rotation role, playing 15-plus minutes per game every night. While playing for Long Island helped him get up to speed on Brooklyn’s systems, it also had him game-ready and in a rhythm.
“It was perfect,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “I think especially because I didn’t do training camp. Didn’t have all that preparation for the season. It was great to go out there, know the plays, know the defense, know the identity of the team and the organization. Keep me in good shape, very good shape and ready to play whenever my name was called.”
A first-round draft pick by Philadelphia in 2016, Luwawu-Cabarrot split last season between Chicago and Oklahoma City, then went to training camp with Cleveland last fall before being cut. He found a fresh start in Brooklyn that renewed his mental approach and passion for the game.
“My focus has been great, my energy,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “That fire that I didn’t have before. It’s just that fire during a game. I love what I’m doing. I love playing here. I love the team and my teammates. I can’t let anybody down. I can’t take that for granted. I understand that, finally. Just go out there and fight every single night and never let myself go down, my teammates go down. That’s the thing that changed the biggest in my, just being focused every single time and giving 100 percent.”
Luwawu-Cabarrot had several of his biggest offensive games between the All-Star break and the suspension of the season, starting with a season-high 21 points in a win over Charlotte on Feb. 22. In that last week before games were halted, he scored 16 points in Boston, 19 against San Antonio, and 13 in Los Angeles, all Nets wins.
When play stopped, Luwawu-Cabarrot opted to remain here rather than returning home to his native France.
“I just thought it was not worth it,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “I’ll be able to see my family after everything is over. Everybody is safe. So there was no rush in terms of like going back home and seeing my family because it could cause a problem health-wise. So I didn’t feel the rush or the need to go back, especially with the NBA being postponed and the fact that you have to quarantine like two weeks when you come back from Europe and all the laws and rules about people coming back from Europe to the US. So it was, like, timing. It was not worth my time to go back. So I’m just on a bunch of Face Time and Zoom calls with my family, and that was fine.”
Now that the Nets are back to work, opportunity opens up again.
“It’s huge for us, huge for me,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot. “Obviously, we’re going to miss them, going to miss everybody, but as we say this year and as it’s always been, it’s next man up. We have to stay ready and be ready to play. I’m sure they’ll support us and we’ll try and do the best job we can.”