Nic Claxton has now missed 13 straight games due to an undisclosed illness and although he says he’s feeling better, the 22-year-old knows he still a ways away from rejoining his teammates on the court.
“Yeah, I’m in the ramp-up stage right now. I’m reconditioning myself. I got sick, I lost a lot of weight,” Claxton told The Post at a Nets charity event in Brooklyn. “But I put the weight back on, and I’m feeling good and I’m hoping to be back within the next couple of weeks.”
Brian Lewis caught up with Nic Claxton in Red Hook where the 22-year-old was distributing turkeys and other meals to some of the 2,000+ families the Nets are helping this Thanksgiving. It was as detailed a discussion of Claxton’s situation as any in recent weeks. Whatever ails him apparently began during training camp.
The Nets had big plans for Claxton — as they’ve had in the past — but once again, he fell victim to bad luck. In his two years plus as a Net, the near seven-footer has been available only about a third of the time. Since joining Brooklyn as a second round selection in 2019, he’s lost time to a shoulder injury, knee tendinopathy, a positive COVID test and now the illness described only as “non-COVID.”
“I was sick. That’s the extent I want to go with,” Claxton laughed when pressed by Lewis on the nature and extent of his illness. “I was sick. But I’m feeling better now. I’m getting back to where I need to be so I can get out there and play. I’m excited to get back out there with my teammates.”
The Nets no doubt would like to have him back on the court as well. He started three of the four games he played at the beginning of the season and was averaging 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and a block. Moreover, the Nets had hoped his defensive ability, which he showed off last season, could be a big help to their front court.
As Lewis pointed out Sunday, Of all players to appear in at least 25 games and average 15 minutes last season, Claxton’s defensive rating was the sixth-best in the entire league and he led Brooklyn in both defensive rating (102.1) and net rating (12.3), finishing fourth in plus-minus (plus-157).
Steve Nash spoke this week on how Claxton still has to improve his conditioning before he steps on the court.
“For me, Nic’s got a ways to go. He’s got to really work on his conditioning. So I’m not sure when he’ll be back, or when he’ll be back with the necessary thrust and dynamic ability to play the game at this level,” Nash said this week. “So hopefully it’s not too long but I don’t think it’s in the next few games.”
Claxton said he was happy to be part of the team in its charity efforts. He appeared with James Johnson, Nets CEO John Abbamondi and his father, Charles Claxton, at Cavalry Baptist Church in Red Hook.
“It’s good to be able to come back into the city, back into Brooklyn and give back, just showing your face and showing that you care,” Claxton told The Post. “Because I remember when I was in the shoes of a lot of people here, so it’s good to be able to come back and give back.”
“Yeah, it’s good to be able to come to events like this. Last year with the pandemic we weren’t able to do these things. So it’s good to be able to give back and showing your face, showing love.”
Whenever Claxton gets back to work, he’ll have another incentive beyond helping the Nets win. His initial three-year NBA contract, which pays him $1.78 million this year, expires at the end of the season, making him a restricted free agent in July.
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