Nic Claxton has battled injuries throughout his two years in the NBA and says he’s learned one thing through it all ... patience.
Claxton, who has not played a game this season due to right knee tendinopathy, spoke to the media Monday for the first time this season.
The 21-year-old, who has had arthroscopic labrum repair surgery on his left shoulder back on June 24 after missing several games due to a hamstring injury last season, on top of the right knee injury he is dealing with currently, made him realize getting healthy can take time.
“That goes back to patience. That is something I really never had to deal with before in the past so it’s just been patient with my shoulder and even going back last year with my hamstring and now with my tendinitis,” Claxton said. “I really just trying to stay the course and continue to work.
The Georgia product said he wants back on the NBA hardwood competing with his teammates but noted he’s experienced some flares with his tendinitis. So he’s trusting the process.
“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. I’ll be traveling soon and I’ll be ready to assert myself when the time comes.”
As for his rehabilitation, he and the Nets performance team do not want to rush anything. Claxton wants to be the best version of himself when he returns, he said. The 21-year-old has realized the process behind recovering from tendinitis.
“It has definitely been a process,” Claxton said about his rehabilitation. “We are not trying to rush anything. I really built my lower body up slowly and that has really helped build my overall body. As I said, we are taking our time and you don’t want to rush anything, especially dealing with tendinitis. The performance staff has been taking this slow and when it is time for me to be back, I’ll be ready and be the best version of myself.”
When asked what stage of rehabilitation he’s undergoing, Claxton said it’s currently working on explosiveness.
“As far as the tendinitis goes, right now, I am in a stage of trying to get my explosiveness back.”
When it comes to playing, Claxton said he has been getting up shots for a while now. On top of getting some shots up, the he’s been playing a little bit against Nets assistant coaches.
“I have been getting a lot of shots so I’ve been shooting a lot. I started to do one-on-one against some of the coaches as well as some two-on-two and today was my first time doing three-on-three against the coaches. I continue to ramp that up and then I will be playing with the stay ready group,” he said referring to the Nets bench. “That is against the players so it has been a process. It has taken a little longer than I and everyone expected. I just got to trust my body, trust the performance team, and I’ll be out there soon.”
Steve Nash said he does not expect Claxton to be ready to play in an NBA game for at least three more weeks, meaning March or around the time of what’s again called the All-Star break. That starts March 5 . On the bright side, Claxton said he’s progressing and there is a small light at the end of the tunnel looming. He will be practicing with the stay-ready group very soon.
“He is progressing. I don’t have a date for you but he is progressing and not quite with the stay ready group. He did play with some coaches today,” Nash said on Claxton. “He’s almost a half measure of the stay-ready group and will be there shortly hopefully. There is progress and what seems like momentum and light at the end of the tunnel but I would say probably a good three weeks before he plays in an NBA game at a minimum. Still a moving target but positive signs for sure.”
As for what he wants to do on his return, Claxton wants to be the energy guy. Indeed, throughout the season, Claxton has been very active on the Nets bench cheering on and supporting his teammates. On top of providing must-needed energy to this group, Claxton wants to be a heavy contributor on the defensive end, be vocal, and be versatile on the offensive end.
“Just being an energy guy,” Claxton said. “Getting offensive rebounds, helping us out defensively, being vocal, and quarterbacking the defense. Offensively, just bringing that versatility piece and being able to finish around the rim, catch lobs, and do different things.”
As he watches the group from the Nets bench, Claxton sees the talent the Nets have. He believes the team is at its best when everyone is applying themselves defensively. While Claxton watches his teammates, he is taking notes on where he can step in and help the team when “it is my time.”
“As far as the team, we are very talented. When we decide to apply ourselves defensively, we are at our best. I have just been watching and looking for ways I can step in and help the team when it is my time.”
Claxton is one of four puzzle pieces the Nets are working with as they continue to patch the hole Jarrett Allen left behind after the James Harden trade. Claxton and DeAndre Jordan are on the contract books for years to come while the teams’ other 5’s, Norvel Pelle and the newest Net, Noah Vonleh, are on non-guaranteed deals, (along with three other Nets (Chris Chiozza, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Iman Shumpert). Reggie Perry went to the G League “bubble” last week.
It’s likely the Nets will base any player movement come February 24 (the day all non or partially guaranteed contracts become guaranteed) on Claxton’s progress. The Nets are unlikely to need all the bigs they currently, particularly if they are planning to add bigs via trade.
In two seasons, Claxton has appeared in 15 games for the Nets since he was drafted, posting averages of 4.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 12.5 minutes per game. He shot 56 percent overall and 14 percent from deep on 0.5 attempts from behind the arc per game.
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