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Nets Nic Claxton continues to play well, but respect coming slowly

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Nets
Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) scores past Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

PHILADELPHIA — Not too many people are sleeping on Nic Claxton after the way he has started his season, but Philadelphia 76ers big man Montrezl Harrell gave his Brooklyn counterpart some bulletin board material on Wednesday.

The Nets were making their second trip of the season to the City of Brotherly Love when Harrell was asked about the way Claxton has played since Kevin Durant was sidelined by an MCL sprain earlier this month. Claxton has been putting up 17.5 points per game since Durant’s Jan. 8 injury and averaged around 33 minutes per game. 

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But when asked about the then-upcoming matchup against Claxton, Harrell threw a little bit of shade at the Brooklyn big. 

“I don’t know nothing about that,” Harrell said after Sixers’ shootaround in Camden, New Jersey.  “You’re talking about a guy who steps up, but at the same time, Kyrie (Irving) is the head of that snake. If Kevin Durant was there, it would be those two. It’s good that he’s playing well and stuff like that. Cool. But he’s not the focal point of our defense. (He’s not) who we’re trying to take away.
 
“We know the head of that engine is through Kyrie and everything they’ve been doing since KD’s been out has been through Kyrie. So kudos to him, but at the same time, brother, that’s not the focus of my lock-in. I’m just gonna come out and make sure Kyrie isn’t getting downhill, make sure he isn’t creating for his guys and make sure he isn’t causing a whole lot of havoc in order to get Claxton open.”

The Nets big man has been having a strong season already and has put up 20 or more points in his last three games, which included a 24-point performance on Monday. It was a milestone game for Claxton. who put up a career-best in points and rebounds (15) and helped the Nets in a comeback win over the Golden State Warriors. 

The comments are sure to add fuel to Claxton’s fire after more and more teams have taken to fouling him regularly. It’s something he has recognized and has been seen working on. 

During Tuesday’s practice, Claxton was the last player to leave the court and during the open period of practice he was seen working on his free throws. 

“I definitely take it as a challenge,” Claxton told the New York Post on Monday about the fouls. “I don’t care. If team’s 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. 

“It honestly gets me going, gets me activated because when I start getting fouled I want to go back to the line. If that’s what teams want to do then I’m going to take on that challenge. And yeah I’ll be ready.”

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