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Travon Bryant pushing Nic Claxton like he pushed himself

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Nic Claxton isn’t seeing much action on the court with Nets this season, but that’s not surprising. He’s playing behind Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan. Besides, he’s a rookie, a skinny one at that.

But when the second rounder has been on the court, he’s shown he can play. A hair under 7-foot, the 20-year-old has used his athleticism and surprising range and ball-handling skills to get buckets ... and not mess things up. In back-to-back games last month when he played big minutes in Jordan’s absence, Claxton scored 15 and 14 and shot 13-of-20 from the floor, including his first 3-pointer.

Claxton made sure after the first of those two games to thank his assistant coach and mentor, Travon Bryant.

“I have an extremely long way to go, but he’s just been big on teaching me how to be physical with guys and just use my length to the best of my ability,” Claxton of the Nets big man coach. “I enjoy working with him every single day. I have to give some credit to him. He’s extremely knowledgeable of the game, and I think he’s going to be a good coach in this league for a while.”

The Nets think so too and would to see the 6’9” 37-year-old stick around. As Alex Schiffer of The Athletic writes Monday, Bryant is seen as “one of the league’s up-and-coming coaches because of his experience, his basketball IQ and his legendary willingness to scrimmage with NBA stars.”

Like his head coach, Bryant likes to break a sweat working out with players like Claxton, Allen and Rodions Kurucs. Known for his ability to knock down 3-points during his college days at Missouri and in his time overseas, Bryant likes to show-and-tell in coaching sessions.

“He’s got a little something,” Claxton told Schiffer with a laugh. “He can’t do nothing with me, but he’s still got something.”

Bryant did not have to take a coaching job in 2016 He still had offers overseas after playing for teams in Argentina and Japan the previous year. Overall, he played 12 years for teams in eight countries on four continents, if you count his summer league stint with another Bryant in L.A.

His first coaching gig was in Oklahoma City as an assistant coach for the OKC Blue, the Thunder’s D League team, where he worked with D Leaguers as well as Steven Adams, then a rising big man with the Thunder. (Yes, he was there with Kevin Durant, too.)

When the big man coaching position opened in 2017, the man vacating it, Mike Batiste, recommended Bryant. The two had competed against each other in Greece. Atkinson was impressed by his willingness to get down and dirty and how he had been a basketball vagabond just as he had a decade earlier. Atkinson also remembers watching him play the 4, hitting from deep in Greece.

“A lot of guys going from that European international career, they didn’t have the easiest life over there. Those guys, it shows humility. You’re willing to go through that struggle to learn more about the game and master your craft and you didn’t mind the struggle. The bus rides, the travel, I mean, you mind it, but you gotta pay your dues.”

Bryant’s style isn’t just physical. He consumes video, writes Schiffer, and he’s now become a favorite of the YES Network’s halftime updates. But he still loves getting out there with his charges, particularly Claxton who the Nets are very high on ... and whose skill set Bryant recognizes from his own resume’.

He’ll guard Claxton before the game at Barclays Center, offering him encouragement and pushing him, both mentally and physically. You’ll find the two of them intently watching video as well, both at Barclays and HSS Training Center.

Travon Bryant never played in the NBA other than that summer league stint back in 2004, but he’s likely to be spending a long time at the other end of the bench as a coach.