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With DeAndre Jordan day-to-day with ankle sprain, expect young bigs to get minutes

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Kenny Atkinson says DeAndre Jordan’s left ankle sprain is “not really that bad” and the 6’11” center is day-to-day, a lot better prognosis than could have been expected after he went down in the Nets win over the Pelicans.

How much he’ll play —or even practice— on the upcoming road trip remains uncertain. Starting Friday, the Nets schedule has them playing every other day. No back-to-backs but traveling after each game.

“Hopefully, DeAndre’s back in a snap. I err on the side of caution. We need to fill that position. We have, in Nic [Claxton] and Henry [Ellenson], two guys we think can help us.”

With 21-year-old Jarrett Allen starting, that means the Nets corps of bigs will be between 20 (Claxton) and 22 (Ellenson). Neither Claxton nor Ellenson —both 6’11” in bare feet— have played this season.

Atkinson has pronounced himself “pleasantly, pleasantly surprised” with Claxton, the Nets second rounder. Now, he gets a chance to see what the Georgia product can do.

“I think we can go some different ways with that backup position,” Atkinson said after practice Wednesday. “I think Nic Claxton, he’s gonna have to play some, depending on how long DeAndre’s out. I think Nic, he understands what we’re doing. We love his talent. At some point, he’ll get a shot.”

Claxton’s situation is reminiscent of Allen’s two years ago when he arrived from Texas as a 19-year-old. Everyone thought he’d play big minutes for Long Island but went straight into the rotation.

“Nic, I was in the same position he was [in 2017], the rookie coming in, the young guy with the whole world ahead of him,” Allen said. “Nic’s gonna come in and bring a lot of energy and play hard and get himself ready for the future.”

“Nic is just naturally a gifted athlete. He’s got a good feel for the game, he knows how to play,” Joe Harris said. “I think he understands the situation that he’s in and what his role is going to be.”

The big issue for Claxton of course will be defense. Jordan has been an elite defender, a quarterback. Allen said Jordan has helped him.

“The one thing for me that he’s helped with is on the defensive end, just talking more,” Allen said. “I think last year I struggled with it, being silent on defense. But now, I think I’ve seen that as a big jump for myself.”