Nic Claxton

Nets Notes: O’Neale, Claxton, Simmons, Warren, Frontcourt

The Nets agreed to give up a first-round pick in exchange for Royce O’Neale last summer on the same day that news of Kevin Durant‘s trade request broke. The timing created some confusion among NBA observers about why a Brooklyn team in flux would give up a valuable future asset for a veteran role player. Seven months later, it’s clear why the Nets felt O’Neale was worth investing in, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required).

“It’s the total confidence that he gives you, the effort and the care factor that he has on a nightly basis … going over the scouting report and looking to see who he might guard that night,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “His teammates get a chance to see him be extremely professional. Whether it’s the conversations that I have with him on an off day about how our group is, what’s important, how can we get better.

“To see the concern that he has of doing his part as a teammate, that goes a long ways when there’s been nights where maybe he didn’t have a great shooting night but he’s still finished the game for us. Or he’s in a position where he’s able to shoot a crucial three because he’s in the game. At the end of the day, the trust that he’s garnered amongst the coaching staff, his teammates, (is) because he shows up every single day. Every day, every practice and every game. And nearly every minute of those games.”

As Lewis notes, O’Neale’s availability has been one of his most valuable assets for the Nets this season. The forward has started 45 games – tied with Nic Claxton for the team high – and his 1,563 total minutes are easily the most on the team, ahead of No. 2 Kevin Durant (1,403).

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Already emerging as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender, Claxton has taken his offensive game to a new level since Durant went down, having averaged 21.1 points per night on 77.5% shooting in his last seven games. Vaughn has been just as impressed with Claxton’s mindset and preparation between games as his production on the court, according to Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “That professionalism, that maturity will go a long ways for Nic Claxton. It’s paying off for him,” Vaughn said. “The preparation, the dedication to your craft, to show up and be prepared to play every single night — there’s something to it, and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
  • Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) and T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) both departed Thursday’s game vs. Detroit early. While both players could miss a little time, it doesn’t sound as if either injury should be a long-term issue. Joe Vardon of The Athletic indicated that Simmons wasn’t expected to undergo an MRI on his ailing knee, and the former No. 1 overall pick is listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. New York. Warren is listed as doubtful.
  • Alex Schiffer and John Hollinger of The Athletic check in on the state of the Nets and consider what the team will be looking for at the trade deadline and on the buyout market. Hollinger suggests that Brooklyn should keep an eye on big men like Damian Jones and Mason Plumlee, since the club could still use one more frontcourt player to help match up with bigger centers.

Nets Notes: Irving, Claxton, Simmons, O’Neale

The Nets have pulled out of their 0-4 tailspin since Kevin Durant‘s injury, thanks to another huge performance from Kyrie Irving, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn won its second straight road game Sunday night, rallying past the Warriors behind Irving’s 38 points and nine assists. He said he doesn’t mind carrying the scoring load with Durant sidelined, but he believes it’s important to get everyone involved.

“It doesn’t matter who has the ball in their hands as long as they’re being aggressive [and] it’s the best shot for our team,” Irving said. “Objectively this team sport is to win basketball games, not identify one person to carry everybody every single night … it’s just a team attitude, team atmosphere and living with the results.” 

Following an early-season suspension, Irving’s relationship with the Nets has improved significantly, to the point that there’s now a belief that an offseason extension might be in play. In a separate story, Lewis notes that Irving has become more comfortable in a leadership role and the rest of the team is benefiting.

“That’s what he does,” Royce O’Neale said after Irving scored 48 points Friday at Utah. “Right now he’s leading us, and we follow his lead. We’re trusting him, he’s trusting us. So to see him go off like that is always special. You could just tell he had it going.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Opponents are resorting to a hacking strategy with center Nic Claxton, but he’s not intimidated by it, Lewis adds in another piece. Claxton is shooting just 47.1% from the foul line this season and was 6-for-15 against Golden State. “I definitely take it as a challenge,” Claxton said. “I don’t care. If teams are fouling me, it’s almost a sign of respect. They can’t stop us, our team defensively and I just got to go up and knock the shots down. I’m going to take on that challenge every single time.” 
  • The Nets had to figure out a new offensive strategy without Durant, and they’ve been more effective with Irving as the primary ball-handler rather than Ben Simmons, Lewis observes.
  • O’Neale was grateful to get a warm reception Friday in his first game back in Utah since being traded to Brooklyn over the summer, according to Lewis. “It’s a great feeling, all the love they showed,” O’Neale said. “I was here for five years, had a lot of great memories here and to feel that welcome back meant a lot.”

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Raptors, Claxton, Celtics

With the Sixers‘ 2022/23 team salary just barely over the luxury tax line, there have been rumblings that the team will look to trade a non-rotation player to duck out of tax territory. Furkan Korkmaz, one player who has been cited as a candidate to be moved in such a deal, has heard the rumors, but is trying to not let them affect him, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays.

“I just let those guys handle it — my agent, my organization-wise,” he said. “Right now, I don’t think it’s going to make a lot of sense for me to say anything about it, because it’s not in my hands at some point. … For me, the best thing that I can say is I want to be happy, you know? I want to be on the court. And whatever they think is working with the team, that’s fine with me.”

Korkmaz has been a rotation regular in Philadelphia over the last several years, averaging 20.8 minutes per game in 194 appearances during the three seasons prior to this one. In 2022/23, he has appeared in just 23 contests and averaged only 10.9 MPG.

Given his decline in production over the last year and the fact that he’s owed a guaranteed $5.37MM next season, Korkmaz wouldn’t be a positive asset on the trade market — especially since potential trade partners would recognize that the Sixers want to duck the tax, reducing Philadelphia’s leverage.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Asked on his podcast by co-host Izzy Gutierrez about the Raptors‘ struggles this season, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said he expects Toronto to make a move or two before the trade deadline. “I think in terms of what they need or what they’re lacking, something’s gonna happen. I don’t know what,” McCollum said (hat tip to HoopsHype). “There’s rumblings about certain players on the team not being happy. And due to tampering, I can’t speak to that, but I think they’re gonna move someone at some point.”
  • In a conversation with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Nets center Nic Claxton said he feels like he’s “barely scratching the surface” of his potential and that he believes he can become one of the NBA’s best two-way players. Claxton also believes he should be the frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year award. “I’m defending one through five and neck and neck as the (NBA’s) leading shot blocker,” he said. “I’m doing everything on the defensive end for the team, anchoring the defense every single night.”
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic takes a closer look at some of the Celtics‘ trade assets, examining which players might be available at the deadline and whether the team will have an opportunity to use its disabled player exception. Weiss identifies Danilo Gallinari and Payton Pritchard as two of the team’s top trade candidates and suggests the DPE will likely be saved for the buyout market.

21 More NBA Players Become Trade-Eligible

Today is Sunday, January 15, which means that nearly two dozen players who signed free agent contracts meeting specific criteria this past offseason are now eligible to be traded.

Most offseason signees became trade-eligible on December 15, but players who met the following criteria were ineligible to be moved for an extra month:

  1. The player re-signed with his previous team.
  2. He got a raise of at least 20%.
  3. His salary is worth more than the minimum.
  4. His team was over the cap and used Bird or Early Bird rights to sign him.

The following players met that criteria and are eligible to be traded as of Sunday:

(* Players marked with an asterisk have the ability to veto trades.)

Most of the players on NBA rosters are now eligible to be moved, though a small handful still can’t be dealt. That group includes Thunder guard Isaiah Joe, who becomes trade-eligible on Monday, Bucks swingman Pat Connaughton (trade-eligible on Wednesday), and Thunder forward Kenrich Williams (trade-eligible on Friday).

There are also several players who won’t become trade-eligible before this season’s February 9 deadline, including Lakers star LeBron James. Players on 10-day contracts are also ineligible to be dealt.

Nets Notes: Durant, Warren, Trade Deadline, Claxton

With Nets All-NBA forward Kevin Durant now expected to be absent for around one month with an MCL sprain, Brian Lewis of The New York Post wonders if the club can weather life without him better than it did last year.

Lewis notes that Brooklyn went 5-16 in Durant’s absence with another sprained MCL last year. The Nets lost their first game following Durant’s injury this season, a 109-98 defeat on Thursday night against the Celtics.

“With K we know what we’re up against with him not being in lineup,” All-Star Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving said. “We can say it every single day, but we don’t have time for any excuses. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay mature about it.”

Nick Friedell of ESPN observes that the team does not want to view the Durant injury as a crutch this season.

I’m not giving this group a chance to make excuses,” head coach Jacque Vaughn noted Wednesday. “Here to play. Here to win. Here to compete. It doesn’t change. Love them.”

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Though reserve Brooklyn forward T.J. Warren has been Durant’s primary backup when he’s been available this year, Vaughn does not intend to amp up Warren’s minutes much while Durant sits, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “I said from the beginning, the thing is keeping T.J. healthy to the end of the year,” Vaughn said. “We’ll continue to see how we’re going to manage the rotations — who starts, who’s the first sub, what the second group looks like; all of that changes… But no, T.J. won’t be playing 40 minutes.” Botte notes that Yuta Watanabe, Cam Thomas and Markieff Morris could be getting more run to replace Durant by committee.
  • The Nets will be actively on the hunt for roster improvements at the February 9 trade deadline, particularly in the frontcourt, reveals Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (YouTube video). “What the Nets get to do now is evaluate their roster without Kevin Durant, who’s been such a dominant force for them,” Woj said. “So now for Brooklyn, they have some time to see how these players play before they make some decisions, probably closer to the trade deadline, on deals.”
  • Starting Brooklyn center Nic Claxton used the 2022 offseason as a springboard to improve this season, writes Net Income of Nets Daily. He re-signed with the Nets on a two-year, $20MM deal over the summer, and has developed nicely as a rim-rolling defender in 2022/23. Claxton is averaging a career-most 11.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.6 BPG and 1.5 APG. He is also connecting on a career-best 73.8% of his field goals.

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Embiid, Williams, Claxton

The Raptors offered guard Fred VanVleet a four-year, $114MM extension prior to the season and it was never formally “rejected,” a source told Michael Grange of (Twitter link). Instead, the two sides mutually decided to wait, with no specific deadline set.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports was the first to report the Raptors’ extension offer. VanVleet can become a free agent this summer if he declines his $22,824,074 option.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Joel Embiid missed his third consecutive game on Sunday afternoon due to sore left foot. The Sixers cruised past the Pistons without their star center and they’re not concerned about the injury, as Embiid is showing progress, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been on a minutes restriction, between 17-22 minutes, since returning from a knee injury. The restriction has apparently been lifted and Williams says he’s ready to play more, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. “I’m here for whatever. Obviously, they’re trying to be careful and make the smart decision. If the guys are out there rolling, they’re rolling,” Williams said. “I enjoy playing the game. Coming off the bench, I feel like I’ve been able to be decisive on where we need to insert energy.”
  • Nets big man Nic Claxton believes the team already has all the pieces in place to win a championship, according to Sharif Phillips-Keaton of Yahoo Sports. “Everybody, especially earlier in the season, ‘Oh, they need this, they need a big, they need that,’ but we have everything we need when everybody is on the court, locked in, and we’re all scrambling, playing hard,” he said.

Atlantic Notes: Fournier, Rose, Maxey, Nurse, Claxton

After a long stretch outside the Knicks‘ rotation, injuries have given Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose a chance to play again, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Jalen Brunson missed a third straight game Saturday with a sore hip and RJ Barrett sat out his second game after suffering a lacerated finger on Tuesday, so Fournier and Rose were back in their familiar roles.

Coach Tom Thibodeau called Fournier “a true pro” after he returned to the court Thursday following a 23-game absence. On Saturday, Thibodeau held up Fournier and Rose as positive examples for young guards such as Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride.

“I think trial and error is a big part of learning, so they have to go through things,” Thibodeau said. “There’s gonna be some bumps, how do you handle all those things and then there’s times, hey look, this league, it’s a roller coaster. There’s gonna be times it’s going great and then all of a sudden it can change very quickly on you and it’s going the other way. And you have to be able to handle both. So I think having the right veterans around those young guys is very important.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey didn’t play Saturday after logging 19 minutes Friday night in his return from a fractured foot. Coach Doc Rivers plans to monitor Maxey’s playing time for a while, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • The Raptors responded to a challenge from coach Nick Nurse in Friday’s win over Phoenix, notes Michael Grange of Toronto had fallen out of a play-in spot with five straight losses, and Nurse called the recent effort “unacceptable.” Instead of having a shootaround before facing the Suns, the team went through a 20-minute film session with Nurse pointing out areas that need improvement. “It’s very simple, foundational things that we’ve got to get better,” Nurse explained. “… I’m probably not gonna air on the soft side of saying, ‘It was just a one-night thing.’ I’m gonna show them the good, bad, and ugly. I’m gonna show them that I’m not backing away from any of that stuff. I’m gonna show them what they need to do better. That’s the only way I think I can teach ‘em.”
  • Nic Claxton has given the Nets a defensive anchor in the middle, and coach Jacque Vaughn believes he’s playing the best basketball of his career during the team’s 11-game winning streak, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Tatum, Brunson, Niang

An eight-game winning streak has the Nets feeling extremely good about their place in the NBA’s hierarchy, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn has moved into fourth in the East after a slow start and can climb into third with a win tonight at Cleveland.

“We’re coming for everybody, man,” Nic Claxton said after the Nets routed the Bucks on Friday night. “We’ve had a lot of disappointment over this season, these past few seasons. But things are rolling. We’ve just got to keep it going.” 

Part of that confidence comes from a defense that has clearly improved, Lewis adds in a separate story. Having Ben Simmons alongside Claxton and Kevin Durant gives Brooklyn three starters with seven-foot wingspans and plenty of options to handle high-scoring wings as well as big men.

“Yeah, I think we answered a lot of those questions,” coach Jacque Vaughn said Friday. “Being able to have multiple bodies like we talked about around Giannis (Antetokounmpo), seven turnovers for him.” 

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum may be the clear frontrunner in the MVP race after a 41-point outburst in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Tatum told reporters, including Jamal Collier of ESPN, that he enjoys the Christman Day spotlight. “I’ve said many times how much I love being here and what it means to play on Christmas — sixth year in a row and something I never want to take for granted,” Tatum said. “As a kid, that was part of the tradition: Eat, be with family, watch all the games and try to envision myself playing out there one day. Now I get to do that.”
  • The injury that Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson suffered late in Sunday’s game could prevent him from playing in Tuesday’s return to Dallas, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Brunson appeared to be holding his right hip before he exited the game with 4:42 left in the fourth quarter, but the team didn’t provide any details. Brunson didn’t talk to the media afterward, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t able to offer any information other than saying he doesn’t believe it’s an injury that Brunson was dealing with prior to the game.
  • Sixers forward Georges Niang credits a verbal jab from coach Doc Rivers for inspiring his 12-point fourth quarter in Sunday’s win at New York, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. After Rivers asked Niang if he would ever “make a freaking shot … or are we just on vacation?” he responded by hitting four three-pointers in that final frame. “We have a good friendly banter, going back and forth,” Niang said. “I think when you have a coach that can challenge you to continuously be better, that kind of motivates me to continue to keep digging deeper and being better.”

New York Notes: Anunoby, Knicks Front Office, Robinson, Claxton

Prior to the team’s hot streak, someone within the Knicks organization reached out to the Raptors to inquire about a potential deal for OG Anunoby, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. That would have signaled a major roster shakeup. Anunoby is averaging 18.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. The Knicks would have needed to surrender serious assets to acquire Anunoby, who has two years left on his four-year, $72MM contract.

We have more from the New York teams:

  • In the same piece, Begley reports that the Knicks were a few defeats away from a major shakeup after getting blown out by Dallas on Dec. 3. Even before that loss, a top Eastern Conference executive tried to convey through back channels that he would be an ideal candidate for team president if Leon Rose lost his job.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t always seemed particularly enamored with center Mitchell Robinson. But Thibodeau feels Robinson has been a major catalyst during the seven-game winning streak. “Every game, it’s protecting the rim, making good decisions, guarding the pick and roll and then offensively, his offensive rebounding, then putting pressure on the rim,” the coach said. Robinson is in the first year of a four-year, $60MM contract.
  • Nets center Nic Claxton recently declared he should be a prime candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award. His coach and teammates certainly value his rebounding and defense, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “He guards multiple positions for us … coming over to the weak side, blocking shots, putting pressure on the rim, rebounding,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “The games he doesn’t play, we miss him; it puts an extreme amount of pressure on other guys — there’s not another guy on our team that can do the things Nic does.”

Eastern Notes: Collins, Murray, Durant, Claxton, Ball

Hawks forward John Collins could return to action on Monday, Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Collins is listed as questionable to play against Orlando. Collins has been sidelined by a left ankle sprain since the beginning of the month. At that time, he was expected to miss at least two weeks, so he has progressed on schedule.

Collins is having a down season by his standards — through 22 games (31.5 MPG), he’s averaging 12.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG on .484/.219/.845 shooting. The Hawks big man has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and his return to action could facilitate a potential deal.

Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (left ankle sprain) is also listed as questionable. He hasn’t played since departing early against the Knicks on Dec. 7.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The red-hot Nets are playing at Detroit on Sunday and Kevin Durant believes the team has turned the corner, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. They entered the game against the Pistons on a five-game winning streak. “Yeah, we just figured out, we’re understanding the way we want to play,” Durant said. “That’s always the good part about finding your identity in the league is that now you can start relaxing a bit going into games, preparing. It’s cool because you know your role, you understand exactly how we want to play.”
  • Nets big man Nic Claxton isn’t bashful when discussing his defensive prowess. Claxton believes he should be in the discussion for the Defensive Player of the Year award, he said in a YES Network interview (hat tip to “Honestly, I feel that I am one of the best defenders in the league. I feel I should be in the top for the Defensive Player of the Year,” he said. “I feel like I wasn’t getting the respect I deserve. We’re winning, my numbers are good protecting the rim, guarding 1 through 5.” Claxton is averaging 2.3 blocks, including a season-high six against Toronto on Friday.
  • Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is “progressing towards (running),” coach Billy Donovan told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) and other media members. There’s no timetable on when he’ll be cleared to try running. Ball will require a “significant ramp-up” period for conditioning after he starts running before he can finally return to action. Ball hasn’t played since January due to persistent knee issues.