The additions of Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge, along with the return of Blake Griffin, have given the Nets big-man depth they lacked last year. They have also overshadowed one potentially very important player.
In the Nets’ preseason finale, however, Nic Claxton showed why he could be such a valuable asset this season.
The third-year pro notched 11 points and seven rebounds while providing exceptional defense to finish with a plus-26 rating across 24 minutes against the Timberwolves. In doing so, Claxton shook off a poor performance against the Lakers on Oct. 3 and missing Monday’s game against the 76ers with a non-COVID illness.
“I take a lot of pride in that and feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the league,” said the former second-round pick out of Georgia.
Kevin Durant raved about Claxton’s ability to defend in the paint and on the perimeter at 6-foot-11, saying it is something the Nets will need often this coming season. Claxton attributed some of that versatility to the time he spent working with Durant when the superstar forward was rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon during his first year with Brooklyn.
“I see a big opportunity, and I’m definitely ready,” said Claxton, who averaged 6.6 points, 5.2 boards and 1.3 blocks in 32 games a year ago. “Me being that energy guy, just creating opportunities for others, and I feel a lot stronger out there, especially on the defensive end just being able to hold my ground. I’m looking forward to this year. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“My goal this year is to take my conditioning to a whole nother level,” he added. “That’s a big part of my growth. It’s something I really got to push myself just to get to that level to play as many minutes as I need to.”
On Friday, the Nets waived guards Jordan Bowden and Brandon Rachal. They could end up with their G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets.