While the health of Brooklyn’s Big Three will likely have the ultimate say in whether the Nets make a championship run this upcoming season, the importance of their supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked.
James Harden certainly isn’t doing so. While the nine-time All-Star and the other two members of Brooklyn’s Big Three, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, drew most of the Nets-related headlines during Monday’s media day at Barclays Center, Harden was quick to laud some of his younger teammates.
Ask Harden, and someone fans should keep an eye on during the 2021-22 campaign is Nic Claxton.
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Harden Sees the Potential in Claxton
The 32-year-old Harden, who has 12 years of NBA experience, is likely as good a judge as any at this point in sizing up the potential of younger players. In Claxton, he sees something familiar.
“Claxton reminds me of Clint (Capela) but more skilled,” Harden said, via netsdaily.com. “The sky is the limit for him.”
Capela, entering his eighth season in the NBA, has averaged a double-double for his career with 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Harden played parts of eight seasons with Capela in Houston.
Claxton said he did a lot of work with Harden over the summer, per Greg Logan of Newsday, and the two seem to have built a solid connection.
Claxton, 22, is a 6-foot-11 center whom the Nets selected with the 31st pick of the second round of the 2019 draft. He averaged 18.6 minutes over 32 games and posted 6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
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Harden Addresses Potential Extension With Nets
Harden, whom the Nets traded for in a five-team megadeal in January, is signed through the 2022-23 season, per spotrac.com.
But Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has continually reiterated this offseason that the two sides are progressing toward a contract extension.
As for Harden’s outlook on the matter?
“Honestly, I’m just taking my time,” Harden said, per Logan. “I’m just going to focus on trying to bring a championship to the city. As far as an extension, I’m just trying to be patient with it. I want to make sure I’m in the right mindset, knowing long-term that, ultimately, I want to be in Brooklyn for the rest of my career. So it’s no rush, and we’re going to have fun with it.”
Harden stands to make money if he waits another year before agreeing to an extension, though that doesn’t seem to be a priority for him.
“It’s not about the money for me,” Harden said, per Logan. “My goal is to make sure that we’re able to continue to build this team to be able to compete for multiple years at the highest level.”
Marks has also referenced the Nets looking to reach an extension with Irving, who did not attend Monday’s media day in person but did hold a press conference over Zoom.
“He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family,” Irving said of Harden potentially signing an extension with the Nets, per Logan, “and I know that we’re all really close and we have open communication with each other. We know how each other feels relatively, but we have a mutual respect for one another.
“So we’ll just take it one day at a time. We’re having great talks. It’s going well. We know that the future is on our side, just being able to maximize our potential in these next coming years to make a few runs at the championship . . . Me personally, I’m just taking it one day at a time, and I’m the same as James, being patient. We’re still communicating. We’ll just wait and see. It’s going well, though.”