Nets center Nic Claxton set to return to lineup after illness
For the first time since late October, Nic Claxton is not found on the Nets’ injury report.
The big man will be available for Friday’s game at Barclays Center against the Timberwolves after he missed 17 consecutive contests with a non-COVID illness.
The Nets had expected the athletic forward/center to work out with G-League Long Island on Thursday, and Claxton must have come through OK. The Nets recalled him after the practice.
Claxton has not played since Oct. 25, after which he battled a sickness that took a toll on his body. He told The Post’s Brian Lewis on Nov. 20 that he had “lost a lot of weight” because of the illness, and he has been rehabbing with Long Island to get back into shape.
“I was sick. That’s the extent I want to go with,” Claxton said with a laugh when asked about the sickness last month.
The third-year big man opened the season as the starting power forward, averaging 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in four games.
The Nets — and especially James Harden, who has compared Claxton with former teammate Clint Capela — have lacked Claxton’s leaping ability under the hoop, without a true threat to catch lobs.
Nets fans remember D’Angelo Russell well, but the team’s players might need to introduce themselves.
The only holdover from the short-lived Russell era, which featured an All-Star Game appearance in 2019 during a breakout season in which the guard led them to the playoffs, is Joe Harris, who will not play because of ankle surgery.
Russell was dealt to Golden State in July 2019 in the deal that officially landed the Nets Kevin Durant through a sign-and-trade. Russell, who played half a season with the Warriors before being sent to Minnesota, will visit Barclays Center averaging 18.9 points per game.
“D’Angelo is a good player,” said Bruce Brown, who could be tasked with slowing the southpaw. “Plays at his own pace, hard to speed him up. But I just think we have to be physical with him, keep him away from his left hand, make him use his right and contest every shot that he puts up.”
Russell’s Timberwolves have been a mild surprise, entering play 11-11 after going 23-49 last season. Karl-Anthony Towns (24 points per game) is shooting better than ever, though the New Jersey native exited Wednesday’s game early after landing hard on his lower back. He is listed as questionable for Friday.
Anthony Edwards, the No. 1-overall pick in the 2020 draft, has taken a leap in Year 2, and “leap” might be the appropriate word for the pogo stick.
“The young fella is a crazy athlete. His ability to get to spots, get on the rim, create shots for himself is elite,” Steve Nash said about Edwards. “Then they’ve got some shooters and defenders and some rangy long guys that can affect the game at both ends of the floor. A young group that’s growing and has multiple players that can affect the game.”
Patty Mills, who led Australia to its first medal in men’s basketball (a bronze) at this summer’s Olympics, was named the 2021 winner of the Don Award, the country’s highest sports honor for an athlete who “most inspired the nation.”
“This level of recognition I think is about beyond basketball, it’s beyond sport,” Mills said. “For me to be recognized, this is about unity and the impact I think that this can have on the rest of the country.”
Durant was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October and November, the first time he’s received the honor as a Net and 15th of his career.
Durant leads the league with 28.6 points per game and has averaged 7.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
Saturday’s Nets-Bulls matchup at Barclays Center will tip off at 8 p.m. It originally was scheduled for 7:30.