It has been 24 days since the Nets last saw Nic Claxton on an NBA floor, as the guy who began the year as a starter has been KO’d by a mysterious illness that, the team has said, is not COVID-19. What it is, we have no idea.
And what’s worrisome is that we do not know when, exactly, Claxton will be able to play again. That was the message from coach Steve Nash on Wednesday.
Nash did say that he was hoping that Claxton could begin to “ramp up” to a return to action, but the team has indicated before that Claxton was working toward being back on the floor. The team sent him down to the Long Island Nets of the G League earlier in the month, but his tenure there did not last long, and he did not appear in a game with the team, even though he was there for a November 6 game against Delaware.
Whatever illness Claxton has had, it has sapped him of his conditioning.
“Nic (Claxton) has a ways to go,” Nash said. “He’s really got to work on his conditioning.”
Nash Has No Update on Claxton Return
While the Nets could use Claxton—any depth is welcome at this point—Nash himself did not seem to have any idea when he might return. Claxton has averaged 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the four games in which he appears, with 1.0 blocked shots in 18.9 minutes.
“I don’t know how long that process will take,” Nash said, per the Daily News, “but I think they have to assess where he’s at, and then see how he goes, and then we’ll figure out when he can play again. … With the number of priorities right now on my plate, I haven’t discussed the date for him to come back because I know it’s not tonight. But hopefully in the next few days, we can kind of have a ballpark. But right now, I have nothing else for you on Nic’s return.”
Claxton was the Nets’ starting center for the first three games of the season, but was replaced in the lineup by Bruce Brown, as Nash has mostly gone with small, defensive-minded lineups around stars Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Nash Hoped to Push Claxton This Season
Claxton’s absence has been a disappointment for the Nets, who clearly had high hopes for him heading into the season, as he was expected to put together different aspects of his game here in his third season.
It was a surprise when Nash opted to put Claxton in the starting five to open the season, in a win over Brooklyn, but Nash seemed to think that giving Claxton more responsibility would force him to raise his overall game, especially in terms of his conditioning and overall fitness. Here’s what Nash said before the Nets’ second game of the season in October:
I think, for Nic, he has a unique profile for us. His length and versatility defensively, athleticism, mobility. So he does bring us (a defender). And he’s a roller, which, for us, is important. We don’t have a ton of rollers. So he brings that dynamic. We’re challenging him with matchups. He guarded Middleton the start of the first game. I thought that was a lot of, ‘Can he guard him 1 on 1 in isolation?’ Yeah. I have faith that he can do a good job on anybody, with his gifts. But when you add to him finding himself in new areas of the court and new scenarios and transition, whatever it may be, I think it was a new look for him.
So growth and the versatility we’re asking from him, and then just continue to get in better and better shape — play longer stretches, higher intensity, but run the floor, rim roll and, at the same time, have a huge impact defensively. He’s a talented kid and we believe in him.