In a Tuesday morning edition of his Hoop Collective, Brian Windhorst says that the Nets and Nic Claxton have an “understanding” on a new contract.
“The word is among executives ... talked to a couple of executives today ... the word is that they believe Nic Claxton will be back with the Nets,” Windhorst told Nick Friedell, ESPN’s Nets beat reporter, and Marc J. Spears of Andscape, “That’s been worked out. I shouldn’t say ‘been worked out.’ There’s an understanding.
Windhorst did not elaborate beyond saying the two sides have the “understanding. The Nets and Claxton have a Thursday deadline for Nets to extend Claxton for up to four years, $55.6 million. If not, he becomes a restricted free agent for the start of free agency on Friday.
There had been reports that the Nets would not match any significant offer for Claxton who the Rockets and Raptors in particular had interest in. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle wrote earlier this month that the Nets “are considered unlikely to match a mid-level offer” meaning a $10 million a year offer. Brooklyn and Toronto reportedly had trade talks about Claxton at the trade deadline.
The Claxton comment came in a discussion of how Kyrie Irving’s return bodes well for the Nets not only because of Irving’s decision to opt in but because there’s optimism about what Ben Simmons defense can do for the team as well as how Joe Harris and Seth Curry will give the Nets extraordinary 3-point shooting.
“They’ve got a good roster,” Windhorst said. “I don’t know if I would be put them ahead of Milwaukee and Boston, but they have a good roster.”
If the 23-year-old does return, it could answer one of the team’s big questions: how they will reconstruct the front court? As of now, they have only one big man — Day’Ron Sharpe — under contract for 2022-23. LaMarcus Aldridge Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond all are free agents. (The Nets did sign an undrafted big man in 6’9” Brison Gresham of Texas Southern.)
There was also speculation Monday night that the Clippers’ Isaiah Hartenstein could be available. The 7-footer is an unrestricted free agent who did well in L.A. and could have commanded the taxpayers MLE in L.A. But it now appears that the Clippers will use that $6.3 million exception to sign John Wall, who has agreed to a buyout with the Rockets.
The Nets and Hartenstein reportedly had mutual interest a year ago before the Nets signed Paul Millsap.
Windhorst also suggested the Irving saga may not be over.
“I am told the option pick-up came as a total surprise to the Nets. They found out the same way everybody did,” said Windhorst, arguing that by opting in, Irving gained some of the leverage he lost.
“The people who are in the business to earn the business are telling me, ‘No, Kyrie actually has leverage here.’” said Windhorst. “Now, he’s making the $36 million, he’s got his money and he can make life hell.”
Windhorst even said that after talking to league executives that he thinks it’s possible the Nets could revisit a trade with the Lakers.
“Depending on what the Nets want to achieve, it’s not impossible that could be revisited this time in trade form,” he argued. With Irving opting in, a sign-and-trade is off the table.
“I know Kyrie said I’ll see you in the fall, but maybe this is Kyrie’s strategy move. Now that I’ve got your money, I’m going to be a problem till you trade me.”
Windhorst said he believes the key is how Kevin Durant sees things, “Well, I think Durant ... that’s the situation. I think the unknown is where Durant is. I’ve heard about where Durant is. I don’t know for sure. He did a podcast, his podcast the other day where he basically took a step back and said, ‘This is between the Nets and Kyrie, not between me.
Indeed, the Nets are still trying to thrash out what Irving’s motivation is, adopting a wait-and-see attitude on the superstar, according to league sources. As Windhorst noted, Joe Tsai was “at wit’s end” with the situation.
Spears meanwhile said things could work out in September when the Nets players get to training camp.
“When they come to camp and see what they could potentially be, I feel the wounds could be healed, like this is a team that could win a title,” said Spears. “There’s a reason why Nick is in New York. This team has two superstars, three superstars. This team could be special.”