Nicolas Claxton is determined to stay ready and make the most out of his situation as the Nets good health and good fortune has (so far) resulted in a minutes deduction.
“It’s tough but it’s part of the journey. (We) got some new guys that have come in and my minutes have fluctuated. I just got to stay ready, continue to learn and whatever minutes I’m given, I just have to go out there and make the most out of,” Claxton said.
Claxton has seen a drop in minutes since LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Nets on March 28 and the 35-year-old veteran made it known right away that he wanted to start at the 5 for Brooklyn. The Nets second-year big was averaging 18.9 minutes per game prior to Aldridge’s arrival and in the last five games, Claxton is hovering around 13.6 minutes.
“It is what it is. LMA; he’s been playing well starting so there’s not much I can say. However many minutes they need me to play, that’s how much I’m going to play,” Claxton said. “Play those minutes to the best of my ability. If it’s 15, if it’s 25, if it’s 20 - I got to be ready.”
While Claxton’s minutes have decreased, so have his shot attempts and his field goal percentage. The 21-year-old is shooting 36.4 percent and has attempted 11 shots in that five game span. Claxton admitted he needs to adjust his offensive play, calling it “a different game when James [Harden] isn't playing and when his minutes are different” but that’s something he isn’t shying away from.
“I just have to figure out ways to pick my spots better. It’s a different game for me when James isn’t playing when my minutes are different. When I’m out there, I try to get a flow. I’m learning. I’m young. It’s been different for me but I’m adjusting,” Claxton said. “It’s something that I just have to be aware of and continue to get better.”
While Claxton is finding his footing offensively amidst the new scenery - boasting an offensive rating of 114.6 - Steve Nash admires his play on the defensive end. To complement the Nets head coach’s praise, Claxton is nursing a team-high defensive rating of 101.6 and his net rating (13.1) is the highest among players who’ve played at least 10 games.
“Steve has told me just to stay ready. My minutes are going to fluctuate some but I just got to stay ready. He likes what I’m doing out there, especially defensively,” Claxton said. “I just got to stay focus, stay locked in mentally, continue to work on my body and working on the small things.”
The Nets crowded frontcourt which features Claxton, Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Claxton, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Reggie Perry and DeAndre Jordan. Steve Nash and the Nets understand the challenge of filling minutes, hoping he can deliver all the minutes his bigs want. In the end, that’s “impossible” but Nash noted while Brooklyn is still blueprinting Aldridge and Griffin, he’s eyeing giving Claxton more minutes.
“We have four or five centers so you can’t necessarily play everyone. I’d love to find a time to get him an opportunity again but right now, we’re trying to figure out where LaMarcus and Blake are at and even get Nic more minutes,” Nash said following Saturday’s loss against the Lakers. “Somethings got to give and I wish I can give everyone all the minutes they desire but it’s just impossible.”
Out of the log-jam in Brooklyn’s frontcourt, Jordan has taken the biggest hit. The 32-year-old center, who started 36 of the Nets first 46 games, has been out of the rotation and hasn’t played in the last five games for Brooklyn. Even before that, Nash had gone away from Jordan in the fourth, replacing him with his young protege. Despite that, Jordan has continued his veteran leadership, providing him with advice from his perspective on the bench ... something Claxton talked about.
“He’s been a pro. He’s really pouring a lot into me telling me things that he sees out there and ways that I can improve. I know it’s tough for him going from being a starter to not really playing but he’s definitely being a professional about it,” Claxton said. “That’s something that takes a lot of someone to do.”
Brooklyn will be without Aldridge for Monday’s game against the Timberwolves due to an illness that isn’t COVID-related. The Timberwolves will be without Karl Anthony-Towns (personal reasons). The Wolves big man scored 31 points on 15-of-22 shooting overall and went 4-of-8 from three to go along with 12 boards in their last meeting. Claxton said he is expecting to see more minutes with Aldridge out and is excited to be out there tonight.
“I may need to play more minutes. I probably will so I definitely got to make sure I’m engaged and for whatever the coaching staff throws at me,” Claxton said. “I’m excited to get out there tonight. It should be fun.”
Claxton is posting averages of 7.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.3 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game and is boasting a +107 in 373 minutes this season.