New-look Nic Claxton looks forward to ‘a lot easier job’ with healthy Nets

Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets
Sep 26, 2022; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) poses for a photo during media day at HSS Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Nic Claxton went perfect from the field in the Brooklyn Nets‘ 127-108 preseason-opening loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Barclays Center.

Sporting a clean look with a semi-bald hairdo, Claxton also enjoyed clean looks around the rim, scoring on five dunks and a turnaround hook shot for 12 points in 14 minutes.

Claxton should get used to it with a healthy Nets roster entering his fourth season in the league.

“That’s gonna make my job a lot easier, just having those shooters. Teams aren’t gonna be able to clog the lane as much. Last year, we had a few lineups where we didn’t stretch the floor as well, but this year having those guys out there is gonna open up the lane, and it’s gonna be one-on-one.”

Nic Claxton via NY Post

Claxton re-signed for two years, $20 million contract last summer to return to Brooklyn.

After a tumultuous summer where the Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving nearly bolted out, all seems well in Brooklyn now. Their franchise cornerstones have re-committed. Joe Harris is healthy. So is Ben Simmons, who had a solid debut.

Claxton is penciled in to start with them. He’s surrounded by a bevy of shooters and All-Star playmakers.

The 23-year-old center had his first taste of a lot easier job Tuesday night as Irving fed him thrice for an easy dunk while Harris’ outside threat led to his hook shot near the basket. His best highlight dunk of the night came from Simmons’ behind-the-head, no-look pass in transition.

“I love the way we’re playing on offense right now. Like Steve (Nash) said, the ball is not sticking. We’re trying to have more motion. That’s gonna make us a lot tougher to guard. We have the talent, we have good shooters.

Just me personally, I’m trying to make myself a threat as much as I can out there on the court, starting the break and doing what I do. Continue to build.”

Nic Claxton via NY Post

Claxton ditched his dreadlocks for the much cleaner semi-bald style for a fresh look and a fresh start after an uneven first three seasons in the league. His performance in their first preseason game was a step in the right direction.

“[Nic Claxton’s] professionalism, I think, has taken a step. His attention to detail, his consistency, I think you see the benefits. It feels like he can play longer stretches at high intensity. He’s a little stronger, more physical in traffic. We’re just gonna keep growing his understanding of the game and situational awareness.”

Steve Nash via NY Post

Claxton has improved every year, except for his free throw shot, which dipped in his second season to 48 percent. Last season, he improved to 58 percent, but that’s still low for a player who looks to thrive in the paint.

He did not have a chance to test his shooting mechanic at the foul line against the Sixers, who missed Joel Embiid (and James Harden). On Thursday night, he might get his chance in a showdown with Bam Adebayo down low.

The Nets-Miami Heat game is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night on YES Network and ESPN.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo