Charles Claxton is a mountain of a man who played three games for the Celtics and another four years overseas for teams in Poland, Lithuania and England before returning home in 2000 to raise his newborn son, Nicolas.
And raise him, he did, as Mike Mazzeo writes Monday for Forbes Sports. Charles coached Nic up until eighth grade, took him to workouts, watched games with him. Now, the proud father of an NBA player coming into his own, Charles tells Mazzeo that while he may seem that Nic came from out of nowhere, he’s a product of some very hard work.
“I always tell his mom that Nicolas was born for this, because he’s always been a hard worker,” Charles told Mazzeo. “When I used to take him to workouts at six o’clock in the morning, he’d be the one knocking on my door to say, ‘I’m ready.’ I wouldn’t have to force him to get up.
“He sacrificed a lot because he wanted to be good. It’s been a process. Nicolas wasn’t one of those phenoms coming out of high school (he was ranked No. 231 nationally before deciding to follow in his dad’s footsteps and attend Georgia). He’s worked and he’s worked and he’s worked. And he continues to work. It’s very gratifying to watch everything come to fruition.”
Indeed, Nic was a skinny kid, even skinnier than he is now, in his freshman year at Georgia, where he was initially used as a traditional center. Then, under Georgia’s new coach, Tom Crean, he was became something akin to a playmaking big who used his natural athleticism and length at both ends of the court. He caught the eye of Nets scouts (who had him at No. 18 on their internal mock) and took him with the first pick of the second round with the Knicks pick.
Injuries — hamstring and shoulder last season, knee tendinopathy this one — kept Nic off the court, but Charles thinks he’s doing just fine right now.
“His mentality got tested early in his career (with the injuries), but he’s persevered. He’s coming along.”
Charles also thinks being drafted by the Nets was fortunate. Among other things, Brooklyn puts a premium on strength training, conditioning and his proclivity for hard work was a good mesh.
“He’s always had a chip on his shoulder. He’s been overlooked a lot, but he just puts his head down and keeps working. The lord has blessed him to be 6-foot-11 and long,” he told Mazzeo. “He knew he had to work on his body, and props to Brooklyn for helping him with that. He’s a work in progress, but it’s coming along all right. So far, so good.”
Charles, like his son, thinks playing with so many all-stars, particularly up front, is helping his development.
“It was just a blessing that he was there at 31, and it’s a blessing that he gets to play with James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, all these guys with that experience that can pass it down to him. It’s just a blessing all around.”
Indeed, as Mazzeo points out, Harden and Nic have developed quite a connection on the court. Harden has assisted on 24 of Nicolas’ 53 baskets in 2020-21, according to NBA.com.
And Nic was quick to praise the Nets acquisition of veteran bigs, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. The more the merrier, he said and noted that he intends to learn from Aldridge, which is an ancillary benefit to the signing.
“Nothing’s promised,” Nicolas told reporters after Aldridge was signed on the weekend. “Just got to control what I can control, continue to get better, and take everything day-by-day.”
What’s next? Mazzeo asked Dad.
“He’s still got to get stronger, knock down the 3-pointer consistently, hit his free throws, just work on all aspects,” Charles said. “Right now, on the team he’s on, he can’t show as much as he’s capable of doing. And he understands that, and he’s playing his role. Like we always say, ‘The cream rises to the top.’ And he’ll rise.”
- Pivotal To Brooklyn Nets Big Man Nicolas Claxton’s Success: Postgame Talks With His Dad - Mike Mazzeo - Forbes Sports Money