Growth in Nic Claxton’s game continuing to show on court for Nets

Nic Claxton of the Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton hangs on the rim after a dunk
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Ask just about anyone in the Nets locker room and they’ve noticed the growth in Nic Claxton’s game over the past month.

The Nets big man has had to deal with plenty of adversity during the course of his short career and after a bout with a non-COVID-related illness that kept him out for a month earlier this season, Claxton has regained his form on the court. Claxton played a career-high 33 minutes in Sunday’s overtime win, while also recording a career-high in rebounds with 14.

Both aspects the Nets needed to see out of the 22-year-old.

Claxton’s energy and play on both ends of the court are two things the Nets benefit from when he’s out on the court. It has been noticeable over the recent stretch of games that Brooklyn has played, including in Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks when he dunked over superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Well, that’s stuff that we expect out f him,” Kevin Durant said about Claxton’s play. “We want him to be available to play and he’s been there for us. He had a tough stretch early on being down and being sick for a month or so. To see him get his stamina back up and play with that energy, 33 minutes, double-double. The last month or so he’s been playing great ball.”

It was in early December that Claxton’s growth began to catch the eyes of those following the Nets. In six games, spanning from Dec. 7-16, Claxton averaged 8.8 points a game on 72.7% shooting. After the Nets resumed play on Christmas day, Claxton continued to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him.

In his last eight games, Claxton has averaged 12.9 points along with 7. 3 rebounds.

“Just me being more aggressive. Just me being a lot stronger than I was last year,” Claxton said when discussing what’s grown in his game. “Just trusting in my body. On the offensive end just reading and knowing how to play off those guys. Knowing how they want to guard James or KD and just getting money off of that.”

Strength is one area that Nets head coach also noted about the 6-foo-11 center.

“He seems like he has more endurance. He can play longer stretches,” Nash said. “He’s stronger, more physical, better around the basket, both ends, and he’s better at facilitating the offense with his running into actions. His free throw mechanics are even improving and he’s making more free throws. A lot of growth from nick and I’m really proud of him”

Claxton is in his third NBA season for the Nets and last year was able to develop chemistry with James Harden. The hope was that Claxton would build off that after he won the starting job out of training camp, but his absence early in the year put a halt to that.

The Georgia product said the chemistry has been pretty natural and that it has grown as well

“I make the game easier for him, he makes the game easier for me and we’ve definitely grown that relationship on and off the court,” Claxton said. “We can just go out there and hoop and I know how he wants screen set. I know where he wants me to be on the court for the most part and I think it’s only going to get better from here.”