LAS VEGAS — Theo Pinson will be leaving Las Vegas with the thing most players come here searching for, an NBA contract for the upcoming season.
Pinson’s return to the Brooklyn Nets became official at the start of the week when he signed his new contract with the team.
“It’s huge,” said Pinson. “I can’t thank Sean (Marks) and the organization enough for giving me this opportunity. I put in a lot of work this past year. I always tried to be ready when my opportunity was called and glad it got reward.”
Pinson got his start with the Nets here in Las Vegas during Summer League last season after going undrafted out of North Carolina. He played essentially the entirety of the 2018-19 season on a two-way contract before being signed to a rookie contract for a full NBA roster spot in the final days of the regular season, making him eligible for Brooklyn’s playoff roster.
“I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s been smooth, because the family-like atmosphere we have here is huge,” said Pinson of his first year of pro ball. “Coming from Carolina, how it was the same way, it was a good transition. We play the game the right way here. That’s the type of the game that I have, and I’m glad it worked out.”
Pinson spent the majority of his time with Brooklyn’s G League squad on Long Island, leading them with 20.7 points per game, plus 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game over 34 games. In the G League playoffs, his game-winning 3-pointer lifted the Nets to a 108-105 win over the Lakeland Magic for the Eastern Conference title and a trip to the G League finals.
He played 18 games for Brooklyn, highlighted by his 19-point, eight-rebound game that sparked a 109-99 comeback win against the Knicks in January.
“When my number’s been called, we’ve got great players, we all know that,” said Pinson. “First thing is to gain the trust from those guys and for them to want me to be on the court also and then Kenny (Atkinson) will want me on the court, then Sean will be comfortable with me on the court so when I get in the game just do my job and do my part.”
One of the areas of Pinson’s game that blossomed over the last year was his 3-point shooting, not something he was known for at North Carolina. He shot 38.5 percent from deep with Long Island, and in his big game against the Knicks he got the Nets going with three consecutive second-quarter threes.
With the addition of players like Kyrie Irving and eventually Kevin Durant who draw huge amounts of attention from defenses, Pinson sees the way it opens up opportunities for teammates, and he’s working on being ready to take advantage of it.
“Just a lot of catch and shoot shots,” said Pinson. “We’ve got some really good players we’ve got here. KD, Kyrie. We’ve got players who are still here, Caris (LeVert), Spencer (Dinwiddie) and those guys are great ballhandlers who can find the extra guy. Lot of catch and shoot guys. I’ve been through this before though. In Carolina when we won the national championship I wasn’t the main focused guy scoring the ball. I did all the other stuff for us to get to that point and win games. Going through this won’t be anything new for me. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been playing this game my whole life. I know what I need to work on and get better at.”
Pinson also drew a lot of attention over the past year for his enthusiastic bench celebrations, something that became symbolic of the Brooklyn team’s culture and camaraderie as the Nets made their surprise run to the playoffs.
“I’m going to continue to be me, regardless of who’s here and who’s not here,” said Pinson. “I’m going to miss those guys of course, but like they said, this is the NBA, Joe Harris said it best, I think he had different teammates every year. Hearing that and understanding the business of the NBA, you’ve got to just do your job. My thing is, if I’m not going to be on the court, I’m going to be involved somehow. This year, hopefully I can get on the court and contribute on the court also and be vocal. I can’t wait.”