Nic Claxton had an arduous, yearlong road back to the court, one rife with disappointments and setbacks. But now that the young big man is back, he’s already surpassing what the Nets could’ve hoped.
“I think that’s fair. He’s just had a rough go of it with injuries from the shoulder to the knee and everything. You never want to have too high expectations,” Steve Nash said after Thursday’s 129-92 rout of the Magic. “But it’s a testament to the coaching staff that worked with him every day and to his diligence with his work. He’s worked his butt off to put himself in this position and he was very productive.
“Nic’s energy was outstanding. Hasn’t played for about a year, so to play these last two games and for him to be as disruptive as he was — I think he had four steals and two blocks, [he] assists, he rebounds. He’s somebody we believe in and think he’s got a lot of upside, continue to grow and just take it step-by-step. But I was impressed and really happy that he had success out there.”
Tuesday marked Claxton’s first game since Feb. 28, 2020. He had to battle back after a hamstring strain in December 2019, shoulder surgery in June 2020 and finally right knee tendinopathy. But he followed his season debut against the Kings, with 10 points, a career-high four steals, three rebounds and a block in 15 high-energy minutes Thursday.
Claxton said playing with James Harden and Kyrie Irving has made life simpler.
“You have to respect them out there, so it opens up the floor. I haven’t shown half of what I have in my bag,” Claxton said. “But it just makes it easy for somebody like me. It creates a lot of space and it’s one-on-one, and it’s gonna be fun.”
Claxton picked up a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk, but said that Irving and Harden already promised to pick up the tab. Irving gave Claxton “The Alchemist” to read, and apparently it’s now Claxton’s nickname.
Landry Shamet had 19 points in another resurgent game.
After shooting just 25 percent from 3-point range in December, he hit 32.7 percent last month and has reached 41.7 percent so far this month.
“You’re saying he’ll be over 50 percent in March? I like where you’re going with this,” Nash said. “Landry’s a really good shooter. We all know that. It’s just a new situation, new environment, new role trying to turn that corner and I think he’s started to have that confidence in what we’re doing and it’s great.”
Tyler Cook made his Nets debut.
The Nets have plenty of flexibility. Nash said they could bring back the recently waived Andre Roberson or Iman Shumpert on 10-day deals and also will watch the buyout market.
“It’s possible they could be back; that’s a front office question,” Nash said. “On the buyout market, that’s one of the reasons we want to be flexible in my eyes, to see how we can improve our team. I don’t think that’s any different. … Especially for us with the way the roster changed after the big trade we have to be flexible to keep our options open.”