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Nic Claxton is ‘available’ to play vs. Clippers, but unlikely to

Steve Nash said a few weeks back that he expected Nic Claxton to return around the end of February ... and it’s officially the end of February.

For the first time this year, the Nets injury report lists the 21-year-old as “available,” not “out” or “questionable.” Claxton, who underwent shoulder surgery and missed the “bubble,” was diagnosed with tendinopathy of the right knee at the beginning of training camp back in early December. On Saturday night, the Nets surprised fans by listing Claxton as “questionable,” then hours before the Clippers game on Sunday, moved him up to “available.”

It’s difficult to imagine the second year player would get minutes vs. the Clippers, said Nash, who said it would take “a unique circumstance” for Claxton to see minutes vs. the Clippers, but didn’t further describe said circumstance.

“I don’t know what I expect this early,” said Nash, who described Claxton as talented but still developing. “He’s played very little basketball in 20 months since he was drafted. It would take a really unique circumstance for him to play tonight.”

Claxton passed all of his progressions with the performance team, Nash said. So he’s comfortable that he can play a certain amount without much risk. Claxton hasn’t played an NBA game since last February 28, a G League game since last March 9.

Nash noted there wasn’t much debate about sending Claxton to the G League “bubble” because in large part the franchise doesn’t want him away from the performance team.

Claxton has been working out with Nets coaches and the team’s bench players — aka the “stay ready crew” — in recent weeks. On February 8, he told reporters he was being patient.

“It is definitely tough being injured right now with the talent we brought in and of course I am really ready to be out there and help the team but I just got to stay patient,” Claxton said. “That is one thing I have learned. I had my surgery and had some flares with my tendinitis but I am just trying to stay patient.”

In 15 NBA games last season, Claxton averaged 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds, but showed flashes in two mid-January games when he put up 14 points vs. the Bucks and 15 vs. the 76ers, both losses.

Here’s some highlights from his game vs. Philly...

After missing games to a hamstring injury, the Nets sent him to Long Island where he played nine games, averaging 16.7 points. 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks in 21.5 minutes. He also had a shooting line of 66/56/76, showing off some range.

Here’s some highlights from his big, 34 point, nine-rebound, three 3-pointer night just before the pandemic hit...

The Nets of course are down depth at the 5 following the trade that brought James Harden to Brooklyn and sent Jarrett Allen to Cleveland. They’ve been using DeAndre Jordan in more conventional lineups and Jeff Green and even Bruce Brown in small-ball situations. They signed veteran Noah Vonleh to a non-guaranteed deal two weeks ago and have been reportedly looking at other possibilities. A healthy Claxton would no doubt change that calculus.