Experience in Serbia Has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot Unfazed by NBA Pressure

NEW YORK -- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was unfazed when he was shifted into the Sixers' starting lineup.

"It's just a regular game," he said nonchalantly earlier this month before starting against the Clippers. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.

‘Life's a Journey': Ben Simmons Breaks Post-NBA Playoff Silence

Wells Fargo Center Renovations Continue Ahead of Flyers, Sixers Seasons

The rookie wasn't putting on a front, either. Being tasked with guarding sharpshooter J.J. Redick in only his second NBA start wasn't daunting to him. That same confidence has been exuded on the offensive end. 

After shooting an air ball against the Celtics, Luwawu-Cabarrot followed up the miss with a three. In Oklahoma City, he got knocked down driving against Steven Adams, picked himself back up and drove again undeterred. 

It's not a case of an exaggerated ego. It's just that starting in an NBA game is tame compared to the high-stress playing situations he has been in before.

Last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot experienced extreme distractions while playing for Mega Leks in the 2016 Serbian Cup. His team defeated Partizan NIS for the title in a hostile environment. 

"It was probably 10,000 people could fit in the stands, but 12 or 13,000 people were there," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "(They were) next to the court, in the stands, next to the bench, right behind you."

Fans lit jerseys on fire in the stands. Others threw concoctions that emitted fog when they hit the court. What looked like chaos was a championship basketball game. 

"During the game, for the example, you shoot a free throw and they throw something right in front of you," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "So you look at the floor and you see something coming right in front of you and boom! A big fog. You need to step off the court, clean the court, maybe five minutes and then you can shoot a free throw. This was maybe the extreme part but it's kind of always like that over there."

The raucous didn't stop when the buzzer sounded. Oftentimes walking off the court involved dodging angry fans of the opposing team.   

"If you have a good game and you go through the tunnel, the people are right here and they're just screaming at you," he said. "If you do something bad during a game, like you foul one guy hard, they will maybe spit on you or throw some sodas on you. I never got it but I saw it." 

Luwawu-Cabarrot, a native of France, left Europe to enter the NBA draft last summer. The Sixers selected him 24th overall. 

The 21-year-old began this season bogged down in the depth chart and spent time in the Development League to see game action. He received a bump in playing time when the Sixers waived Hollis Thompson in January. Luwawu-Cabarrot got the nod earlier this month because of injuries and has held on to that role. 

Brett Brown has often spoken of how rare it is for a player at that selection to log as many minutes as Luwawu-Cabarrot has. Even after playing sporadically to start the season, Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks 12th among fellow rookies from his draft class in total minutes.

"I think starting him has empowered him," Brett Brown said. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot's defense is ahead of his offense. He is averaging 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 25.7 minutes in 10 games as a starter. Brown's commonly used description for Luwawu-Cabarrot is a "track star," and that speed and athleticism can potentially impact both ends of the floor. Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks second in the NBA in average speed, behind only teammate Sergio Rodriguez.

"We coach the heck out of him defensively," Brown said of TLC. "The other stuff we give him a green light to make mistakes and shoot the ball. The defensive side is really where we feel like he's made improvements."

The Sixers have nine games left in the season. Luwawu-Cabarrot seemingly will get the start in the remainder of them. By then he will have a résumé of NBA experience to carry over into his second year. He will add it to the foundation of confidence he already had built overseas.

"First when you arrive (to Serbia) and you see that, you say what am I doing here?" Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "But after you just get used to it. So right now when the fans (heckle me), it's nothing."

Copyright CSNPhily
Contact Us