Spencer Dinwiddie, speaking after the debut of Nets rookie center Nicolas Claxton on Friday night in a 119-115 victory against Portland, called the 20 year-old the team’s second-most talented player. Claxton, drafted 31st by Brooklyn this summer, scored eight points on three-of-five shooting from the field and pulled down six boards in just 12 minutes of action.
“So, I still believe [starting center Jarrett Allen] is going to be an All-Star, but Nic is the second-most talented player on this team,” Dinwiddie said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “[First] is [Kevin Durant], either the first or second most talented scorer of all-time. But Nic’s got game. He’s got a chance [to be great].”
Those comments reflect just how high Dinwiddie is on the rookie, considering he apparently has him ahead of Kyrie Irving on his informal list of Brooklyn’s most talented players. Irving, the Nets’ only healthy current All-Star, is averaging 31.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game for the 4-4 squad.
Meanwhile, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson lauded Claxton’s defensive awareness: “Just understanding the coverages,” Atkinson noted. “I think one time in the first half we were switching everything and he handled that fantastically. That was part of the reason we drafted him, that he was versatile and could guard five positions, so he proved that.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- As Kristaps Porzingis prepared to suit up last week against the team that drafted him in 2015, The Athletic’s Frank Isola explored the Knicks front office’s alienation of the team’s former franchise player. Trouble began to brew when Porzingis blew off an April 2017 season exit interview with then-team president Phil Jackson and then-GM (now team president) Steve Mills. When pressed about the messy breakup Thursday, Porzingis said, “I’ll probably get in more trouble if I start talking about that stuff.” Isola observes that the Knicks’ returns in the deal have yet to bear much fruit: center DeAndre Jordan joined Brooklyn over the summer, point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was booed in the team’s first home game, and the Knicks have yet to use their two Dallas future first-rounders acquired in the deal.
- It’s been a season of streaks for the Sixers. After starting out 5-0, the 76ers have lost three straight games on a Western Conference road trip, falling to the fifth seed in the East. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer posits that the Sixers’ current troubles can be credited to their summer roster overhaul, and that they have too many new faces for continuity at present. New power forward Al Horford and long-term starting center Joel Embiid are still developing their on-court chemistry. When questioned about the team’s recent struggles, Horford observed, “What’s going to help us is the more games we continue to play, the more we get used to playing with one another, everything is going to come together.”
- Veteran point guard Tyler Ennis made his triumphant return to a basketball game for the Raptors‘ G League affiliate, Raptors 905, 13 months after suffering a gruesome leg injury for Turkish team Fenerbahce. Doug Smith of The Toronto Star has the story and the details on Ennis, who feels that the time off had some unexpected developmental benefits. “I had six, seven, eight months of nothing, so I was able to think, ‘When I get back this is what I want to work on,’ ” Ennis said. “I want to be able to shoot better off the dribble and that’s how we kind of did it, in stages.” Though Smith observes that the parent Raptors could use a third point guard and liked Ennis as far back as the 2014 draft, Ennis is nursing a zen calm about the prospect of a callup: “I kind of just want to let it manifest.”