Nicolas Claxton

New York Notes: Simmons, Claxton, Randle, Knicks Centers

Health and confidence are the primary reasons Ben Simmons has performed well lately for the Nets, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

After missing all of last season due to mental health issues and later a herniated disc in his back, which required surgery in May, Simmons had a slow start to the 2022/23 campaign, averaging just 5.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 44.4% from the floor and 46.7% from the line through nine games (27.3 MPG). He also missed five games while dealing with knee soreness and swelling.

However, over the past six games (31.1 minutes), Simmons has started to look more like his old self, averaging 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 82.0% from the field and 61.1% from the charity stripe. The 26-year-old swingman still isn’t 100 percent yet, according to Lewis, but he’s clearly making progress.

Healthy. Finally got his legs under him. He was off for two years. Y’all won’t even give him a chance. Y’all want to criticize him after every f–king game,” Markieff Morris said. “But the guy didn’t play two years. Obviously, y’all wouldn’t know, because none of y’all played in the NBA. He’s got to get his body right. There’s contact every night. Playing 30-plus minutes, it takes time.”

Simmons says he’s still working on finding consistency with his health and play.

Yeah, I feel [the confidence]. I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of. I know what this team needs me to do, so I’m going to keep working and being consistent with my body and on the court,” he said.

Here’s more on the two New York-based teams:

  • Can Simmons and center Nic Claxton overcome spacing concerns and coexist in the Nets‘ starting lineup? Lewis tackles that subject in a member-only article for The New York Post. Head coach Jacque Vaughn acknowledged it will be a challenge at times. “Something we’ve got to figure out,” Vaughn said. “Because both guys do present some positives for us. Hopefully we can lean into the defensive piece with their length with Kevin (Durant) out there on the floor at the same time. But we do have to work through some spacing. We’ll try to play fast. Nic has that ability to run the floor and play fast, so hopefully we won’t have a bunch of sets in the halfcourt that we’ve got to make our way through.”
  • Power forward Julius Randle says he’s still adjusting to “playing off the ball more” after the Knicks signed point guard Jalen Brunson in the offseason, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. As Botte notes, New York ran a lot of its offense through Randle from 2020-22, when he averaged 5.6 assists per game. That figure is down to 3.0 per night in ’22/23, but he’s scoring more efficiently. “Just making the game easy, try and make efficient shots and keep the flow of the offense going,” Randle said. “I think it’s the flow of our offense. Break it down, see more, especially in my position where shots are coming from [and being] responsible for getting good shots … figuring out what spots for most efficient shots.”
  • The Knicks have played all three of their centers — Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims — three games in a row. Head coach Tom Thibodeau says that won’t always be the case, but he’s a fan of having so many options at the five spot. “It’s game-to-game. It’ll sort itself out,” Thibodeau said, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “I don’t think it’ll be like that every game. But I love the depth at that position. So all three guys are more than capable, all three can start, all three can come off the bench. It’s a good luxury to have.”

Nets Notes: Simmons, Claxton, Irving, Watanabe

Ben Simmons turned in his best game since joining the Nets, just in time for a trip to Philadelphia, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. That matchup, in what will surely be a hostile atmosphere Tuesday night, will mark Simmons’ first time playing in front of Sixers fans since his bitter breakup with the team.

“I know what’s coming. That’s part of the game,” Simmons said. “Philly fans, one thing about Philly fans is they are incredible. They are die-hard Philly and they are everything Philly, whatever it is. I respect that about the city. It’s a sports town. I was talking to I think Yuta (Watanabe) before the game about what it’s like to play in Philly, and it’s an incredible opportunity to put on whatever jersey it is. That’s Philly, and it’s a unique experience.”

Simmons has prepared for the encounter by putting together his best week of basketball since physical and mental issues, as well as a clash with Sixers management, led to a 16-month layoff. He made 11-of-13 shots Sunday night with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a win over the Grizzlies. Simmons said he’s focused on the task at hand and not worrying about things he can’t control, like the reception he’ll likely get Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Me personally, if I start reading everything that’s going on and getting psyched out, that’s not good for me,” Simmons said. “So for me, I just want to stay focused, take it day by day, and I keep saying it but that’s what it is for me. Just keep building on good days and staying locked in.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Simmons started at center because Nic Claxton missed the game for personal reasons. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Claxton is expected to return Tuesday, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • Kyrie Irving played 26 minutes Sunday after returning from an eight-game suspension, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. Irving indicated that he’s thinking about filing a grievance over the suspension, but otherwise deflected questions about it and tried to focus on basketball. “I missed my teammates, missed the coaching staff,” he said. “… It felt good to get this game out of the way. Now we can move forward with the rest of the season.”
  • Watanabe, playing on a non-guaranteed contract, continues to look like a keeper, according to Alex Schiffer and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The league’s leader in three-point percentage made four of six attempts Sunday night, all in the fourth quarter. “He’s playing great. We love his energy,” Kevin Durant said. “He’s hitting big shots for us, so you always get excited for your teammates, especially guys who come in and don’t necessarily have a guaranteed spot on the team but work their way into the rotation and put their imprint on the game from day one.”

Nets Notes: Simmons, Claxton, Kyrie, Trade Options

Ben Simmons had his best game since joining the Nets on Thursday in Portland, putting up a season-high 15 points and 13 rebounds to go along with seven assists in 32 minutes off the bench. He was 6-of-6 from the floor, 3-of-4 from the foul line, and had a plus-13 rating in a game Brooklyn won by two points, earning praise from his superstar teammate in the process.

“Incredible,” Kevin Durant said of Simmons’ performance, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. “I’m just happy for him because he’s been trying to get his form back, trying to figure his rhythm out. Tonight I think he did a good job just talking up, commanding the offense, commanding the team on the defensive side of the ball. He was incredible tonight. So we’re going to keep building on that and hopefully we’re able to get this next one, but he controlled the game and was able to get us back into it.”

As we relayed earlier in the week, Simmons’ inconsistent availability and play so far this fall had led to some frustration within the Nets’ organization, but his last two games have arguably been his best of the season. Simmons, who has talked about needing some time to get back to full strength following back surgery in the spring and a nagging knee issue this season, is encouraged by the progress he’s making.

“I’m coming,” Simmons said. “I’m getting there, man. It’s taking a little bit of time, but I got my own back. My teammates got my back, my coaches.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Simmons probably needs to be moved back into the starting lineup in order to maximize his potential, but doing so would mean pairing him with Nic Claxton, another non-shooter, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required). Claxton is having a breakout year in his own right and doesn’t deserve to be demoted, so new head coach Jacque Vaughn will have to determine how best to deploy the duo. “The analytics spoke to us, and (the numbers said) the spacing just isn’t as good (when they play together) as when they’re separated,” Vaughn said. “So we have to figure out some solutions that way, because defensively if we can get Kevin and Nic and Ben on the floor at the same time, that’s a pretty big group with Royce (O’Neale) also. That’s a lot of versatility, so we’re gonna continue to work through it. We saw (Thursday) there was some success, and we’ll continue to learn about it.”
  • Kyrie Irving will have some adjustments to make when he returns from his eight-game suspension on Sunday, according to Lewis at The New York Post. As Lewis writes, Vaughn has preached a defensive-minded, team-first dynamic since taking over for Steve Nash and Brooklyn has responded by posting a 106.3 defensive rating during Irving’s absence, the NBA’s third-best mark during that stretch. Prior to Irving’s suspension, the Nets had a league-worst 118.3 defensive rating.
  • John Hollinger and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic weigh and debate various trade options for the Nets, with Hollinger ultimately concluding that the best approach for the club may be to simply play more games and “hope somebody’s trade value increases.”
  • Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post (subscription required) makes a case for why the Nets shouldn’t consider blowing up their roster this season, arguing that doing so would make a bad situation worse.

Kevin Durant Talks Offseason Trade Request, Nets, Legacy, More

The Nets have had an up-and-down first month of the 2022/23 season and are in the midst of another downturn right now, having given up 153 points to the Kings in a blowout loss on Tuesday.

Still, Kevin Durant tells Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that he likes the energy new head coach Jacque Vaughn has brought to the team. According to Durant, the Nets have been “preparing ourselves well” for games, “playing as hard as we can,” and are starting to build real chemistry.

In Durant’s view, the way the Nets are readying themselves for games under Vaughn is how the team should have been approaching its preparation last season. That was the primary reason the star forward requested a trade in the summer, he told Haynes.

“It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball,” Durant said. “I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing. I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s–t. Hold me accountable. Get on my ass in film if that’s going to help you get on everybody else’s head. I want to do more closeouts. I want to work on more shell drills at practice.’

“This was the type of s–t I was coming at them with. It wasn’t like, ‘Yo, y’all need to make sure everybody around me can make my life easier.’ Hell nah, I want to make everybody else’s life easier. Ask Steve Nash, you can go call him right now. I would say, ‘Yo, I need more closeout drills. We need to practice more.’ That’s what I was on.

“I wasn’t feeling that, and nobody was on that same vibe with me. Jacque Vaughn is. I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit. I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world. I don’t want players to look at us and say, ‘Oh man, these (expletive) are full of s–t. That’s not the type of team I want to be on.’ So when we’re all playing like s–t, you know the one person they’re going to look at. That’s why I requested a trade.”

Durant opened up to both Haynes and Marc J. Spears of Andscape on Tuesday about a number of topics beyond his offseason trade request. Both interviews are worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights from the former MVP:

On the Nets’ lineup with Kyrie Irving unavailable and Ben Simmons struggling to regain his old form:

“Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, (Nic) Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”

On the perception that he’s not a true leader:

“I’m not a leader? What the f–k does that mean? A lot of people say I’m not a leader because I didn’t tell Kyrie to get vaccinated. Come on. Or I didn’t condemn Kyrie for leaving the team, going out and living his life. I’m not about to tell a grown-ass man what he can and can’t do with his own life and dissect his views or how he thinks about s–t.

“… I don’t need to show or tell everybody what I’m doing with my teammates so y’all can pump me up and say, ‘Yeah, KD, you’re the boss, you’re the leader.’ These other (expletives) need that. I don’t. I don’t come to you and say, ‘Haynes, write this story about me.’ I don’t do that to nobody. But I come here and respect y’all. I talk to y’all like a real one, even after a blowout (loss).”

On whether he’s happy in Brooklyn:

I’m incredible. Loving life right now. I don’t think the world understands that. Maybe I need to get miked up more. Maybe I need to have more fluff pieces written about me. Smile more in pictures.

“What’s not to love about this life? I’m a great player. I get up to go hoop every day, work on my game. I make a s–t ton of money. I buy a lot of cool s–t. I don’t understand why there’s even a question on whether I’m happy or not. I just look at the big picture of things. Obviously, basketball, I want to do well, win every game and I want s–t to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean my whole life is f—ed up.”

On his legacy as a player:

“All that extra s–t like, ‘You got to win before you retire and make sure your legacy is straight,’ that’s bulls–t to me. My legacy is predicated on what Cam Thomas is learning from me and what he’ll take away to help him by the time he’s in his 10th year. That’s my legacy. What I did with Andre Roberson, the confidence I helped him build when he was in the league. That’s my legacy. Being able to play with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Kyrie and still be me. Yeah, that’s my legacy. That’s who I am. That’s what I bring to the game.

“I can play with anybody, anywhere, at any time, and you know I’m going bring it every day. That should be my legacy.”

Eastern Notes: Crowder, Bucks, Claxton, Williams, Mitchell

What kind of trade package could the Bucks put together for the Suns’ Jae Crowder, considering they’re one of the teams reportedly interested in the veteran forward? Eric Nehm of The Athletic explores that topic, speculating that Milwaukee could deal some combination of Grayson Allen, George Hill and second-round picks.

However, dealing Allen would remove one of the Bucks’ top shooters and it’s questionable whether Crowder would be part of the team’s crunch time unit.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Nets big man Nic Claxton posted back-to-back double-doubles in the team’s first two games. His teammates and coaches want to see him do that consistently, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “I’m happy he played well, we want him to keep it up, but now as a young player in the league he has to show consistency,” Kyrie Irving said. “And we have to be right there with him.” Claxton re-signed with Brooklyn this summer on a two-year, $20MM contract.
  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams has gotten off to a rough start this season, but he’s not discouraged, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “They (coaches and teammates) know, obviously, I want to play well, and I want them to play well, and they want to play well for themselves as well. But just can’t get too down when you don’t play well,” he said. “Just reminding, that was what, game three? Of at least 82. Obviously we want to play past 82. But that was game three of 82.” Williams averaged 5.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in the first three games.
  • The Cavaliers have already embraced Donovan Mitchell as a leader, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “He’s just a good dude,” center Jarrett Allen said. “That’s what it boils down to. He is easy to talk to; he doesn’t boast about his accomplishments, he is one of the hardest workers every single game in the gym. It’s easy to root for a guy like that and easy to follow somebody’s lead like that.”

Atlantic Notes: McBride, Flynn, Claxton, Nets

Second-year Knicks guard Miles McBride is hoping that his solid defense will earn him regular rotation minutes, per Steve Popper of Newsday.

Popper notes that McBride is trying to make an instant impact to prove his mettle as a contributor, seizing upon every preseason opportunity to showcase his abilities on the defensive end of the floor. To wit, he recorded six steals in under 23 minutes during New York’s first preseason game Tuesday.

“I always want to bring a defensive presence first,” McBride said. “I feel like that gets my offense going… [Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau] controls the minutes… And I’m obviously going to do anything I can to get on the floor and make a great impression.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Third-year Raptors reserve point guard Malachi Flynn had a “procedure” to repair a left cheekbone fracture he incurred during a weekend preseason game, reports Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Grange adds that Flynn should be back with Toronto ahead of the team’s regular season opener, albeit while donning a face shield.
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash asserts that newly re-signed Brooklyn center Nic Claxton has evolved in the way he develops his game, writes Ethan Sears of The New York Post“His attention to detail, his consistency, I think you see the benefits,” Nash said. “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.”
  • Following an isolation-heavy few years with All-Stars Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant at the helm, the Nets are now focusing on a more pass-happy approach to their offense, Brian Lewis of The New York Post reports. “You look at some of our possessions last year, it was a lot of one-on-one,” Irving said. “You guys [reporters] talked about it often and we were well aware of it that that offense when the ball sticks it’s just not the greatest brand of basketball you can play.”

And-Ones: Extensions, Breakout Players, X Factors, Seattle

Why the sudden surge in two-year extensions for players such as Steven Adams and Larry Nance Jr.? It has a lot to do with the expiration of the league’s national TV contracts after the 2024/25 season, as Bryan Toporek of explains. The salary cap is expected to rise significantly the following season after those rights are negotiated. That provides incentives for veteran players to enter free agency again that summer.

We have more NBA-related topics:

  • What do Franz Wagner, Cade Cunningham and Nic Claxton have in common? They are some of the young players cited by ESPN Insiders as having potential breakout seasons, like the one Ja Morant enjoyed last season.
  • Then there are some veteran players whose presence on new teams could change the fortunes of those franchises. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor examines those X-factors, including the Mavericks’ Christian Wood, the Trail Blazers’ Jerami Grant and the Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert.
  • The Clippers and Trail Blazers are playing a preseason game in Seattle and that has renewed the discussion of the NBA eventually having another franchise in the city, Law Murray of The Athletic writes. The state-of-the-art Climate Pledge Arena – the rejuvenated version of KeyArena, where the SuperSonics played – sparks hope that the NBA will give the city an expansion team.

Nets Notes: Mills, Warren, Claxton, Simmons

As the Nets try to move past a season of distractions and a summer filled with chaos, Patty Mills already senses a “night and day different feeling,” according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. The 14-year veteran won a title with the Spurs early in his career and understands the importance of a strong team culture.

“Look, I believe in all of that stuff,” Mills said. “I think that it’s always been a part of who I am and just enjoying being around teammates and getting to know them a lot more. Maybe that comes from my Australian background on the Australian teams, but then to see it at a professional, elite level in San Antonio kind of took that to a whole other level. But trying to get to be the last team standing or just trying to do everything possible to do that, it starts with those relationships.”

Mills was a free agent over the summer and could have moved on, but he opted to re-sign with Brooklyn for two more years. In addition to his role in shaping the culture, Mills is an accomplished shooter off the bench who can play either guard position.

“He’s a successful piece, he knows what it takes to be in an organization, he knows what it’s like to build trust and also do it at the highest level,” Kyrie Irving said. “You need a guy like Patty Mills just simply to have the locker room synergized, but he also can give you minutes and quality play and can think out there for the young guys, as well as give us some veteran leadership.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • T.J. Warren is slowly making progress as he attempts to return from foot issues that caused him to miss almost two full seasons, Botte adds. The Nets don’t expect him to start playing before November. Coach Steve Nash said Warren is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior.”
  • The departure of veteran big men has given Nic Claxton a chance to move into a starting role, Botte writes in a separate story. Claxton tried to learn something from each of his former All-Star teammates, a list that includes Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap. “I just took bits and pieces from everybody’s game,” Claxton said. “Especially the veterans, I listened to them, and now I’m ready to just show my own self and do my own thing. I feel a lot better, just mentally and physically. I feel a lot more confident now going into the preseason and just ready to get everything started.”
  • Ben Simmons‘ treatments for his back problems included cryotherapy sessions last season, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Cryogenic therapy exposes the body to extreme cold for a short time to relieve pain and inflammation.

Nets Notes: Irving, Simmons, Durant, Sumner, Claxton, Gray

Nets wing Cam Thomas isn’t letting the drama surrounding Kyrie Irving affect his outlook for the 2022/23 season and said this weekend that he won’t think any less of his star teammate if Kyrie pushes to be traded elsewhere, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Irving has been spotted at multiple Las Vegas Summer League games, but didn’t attend the Nets’ contests on Friday or Sunday.

“Kyrie’s my guy. Whatever’s his choices, that’s a choice,” Thomas said. “So I still keep in contact with him. That’s my guy. So whatever he does, that’ll still be my guy, my brother. So, it is what it is; it’s part of the business.”

While Thomas said he wasn’t bothered by Irving not showing up to the Nets’ Summer League games, he did praise three-time All-Star Ben Simmons for coming out to watch some of his young teammates on Sunday vs. Philadelphia.

“Yeah that’s big to have somebody of that stature come out and support us as the young guys. That makes us feel good. It makes us happy to play,” Thomas said. “So kudos to Ben for coming out here and watching us play.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Nets general manager Sean Marks and Heat GM Andy Elisburg were seen talking in Las Vegas on Monday, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter links), who says the two GMs are “going beyond cursory conversation” by dining together. Miami is, of course, considered one of Kevin Durant‘s preferred landing spots, so any discussions between the two front offices are worth keeping an eye on.
  • The new contract Edmond Sumner signed with the Nets is a two-year, minimum-salary contract, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who tweets that the second year is non-guaranteed.
  • Nic Claxton‘s new two-year contract with Brooklyn, initially reported to be worth $20MM, actually has a base value of $17.25MM, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. The deal includes $2,587,500 in total unlikely incentives, so if Claxton earns all those bonuses, he could end up making nearly $20MM across the two seasons.
  • A second-round pick in 2021, forward RaiQuan Gray signed a G League contract and spent his rookie season with the Long Island Nets in the G League, so Brooklyn still controls his NBA rights. As Lewis writes for The New York Post, Gray has worked hard to get into better shape and show the Nets that he deserves a shot at an NBA roster spot this fall.

Nets Re-Sign Nic Claxton, Patty Mills

JULY 10: The Nets have announced in a press release that they have officially re-signed Mills.

JULY 7: The Nets have officially re-signed Claxton, the team announced in a press release.

JUNE 30: The Nets are re-signing a pair of key rotation players from their 2021/22 squad, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links), who reports that center Nic Claxton is receiving a two-year, $20MM contract, while guard Patty Mills gets a two-year, $14.5MM deal.

Brooklyn had Claxton’s Bird Rights and won’t need to use another cap exception to sign him. Mills’ deal appears to be the maximum amount he can receive on a Non-Bird deal, as Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype tweets.

Claxton, 23, was 31st pick of the 2019 draft after two collegiate seasons at Georgia. Injuries have played him throughout his three NBA seasons, but he’s shown to be a switchable, versatile defender when healthy. Brooklyn issued him a qualifying offer a couple of days ago, making him a restricted free agent.

In 47 games last season, including 19 starts (20.7 MPG), Claxton averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.1 BPG while shooting 67.4% from the floor and 58.1% from the free-throw line. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer previously reported that Claxton was likely to return to Brooklyn.

Mills, 33, had a solid first season with Brooklyn in ’21/22, averaging 11.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG and 2.3 APG on .408/.400/.814 shooting in 81 regular season games (48 starts, 29 MPG). He averaged career-highs in three-point makes and attempts, with 2.8 and 7.0, respectively.

Mills has played 13 seasons in the league, spending his first couple of seasons with Portland before a 10-year run with the Spurs that included an NBA Championship in 2014. The veteran guard also led the Australian national team to a Bronze Medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Wojnarowski and Brian Lewis of The New York Post said last night that Mills hadn’t ruled out a return to the Nets after declining his player option to become a free agent. Mills isn’t quite as quick as he once was and is limited defensively despite giving solid effort, but he holds a career three-point percentage of 38.9%, which is always valuable.