And just in time, too, considering Claxton appeared to be getting somewhat frustrated with the hand he’s been dealt over this past week.
Claxton, who made a name for himself in 2020-21 as the Nets’ most promising young option to clean the glass, played the first four games of this season and improved in every contest, culminating in his first “breakout” against the Washington Wizards. In that game, he posted a remarkable +21 mark in just 16 minutes of play, a game Brooklyn ultimately captured by 14.
Then, just like that, he was gone.
Felled by a “non-COVID illness,” according to the team, Claxton ended up banished to rehabilitation in a situation so mysterious he ended up (unwittingly) as the center of some obnoxious right-wing talking points about whether the team was being honest (barf).
Luckily, those should be petering out, because Claxton has returned to the team, ready to ramp up his minutes in the coming days (per Steve Nash’s protocol). Don’t expect him to get run right away — and certainly not in the Orlando game — but the cavalry is coming.
Brooklyn Nets big man Nicolas Claxton is working his way back.
Now, nobody tell him that the Nets totally figured out this small ball, DeAndre’ Bembry/Bruce Brown thing while he was gone, alright? That might set him off more than his illness already has.
Realistically, Claxton will not be making a massive Knicks’ struggles on the other side of townimpact immediately on a team that’s featured far more options than we expected during this young season. Blake Griffin has shaken off his early-season struggles and returned to form. LaMarcus Aldridge has returned to become the king of the mid-range to an historic degree. And Brown, of course, has completely flipped the lineup on its head, immediately infusing the Nets with his trademark defensive intensity — and magnifying the in the process.
All of this frustration (and absenteeism) led to Claxton posting a message to his Instagram story of numbness and perseverance the other day. On Nov. 7, he made it clear he wasn’t expecting the “tough times” to last…which we hope was a reference to his dark days away from the team and not upcoming frustration with what he perceives his role to be.
Here’s to hoping Brooklyn can find a way to use the promising big man they held onto.
Having a championship core is no reason to stop developing a useful piece who caught a bad break this year.