While Blake Griffin and Jeff Green continue to tighten their stranglehold on the Nets’ big man minutes, the mystery deepens around young Nic Claxton.
A second-year center, Claxton is set to miss a sixth consecutive game Thursday in Indianapolis, all under the auspices of health and safety protocols. That’s the NBA’s catch-all phrase for everything COVID-related, be it a positive test or just simple contact tracing quarantine.
When asked if Claxton’s absence was more than just quarantine, coach Steve Nash replied, “I can’t comment on Nic’s situation.”
Kevin Durant served two quarantines earlier this season, and Tyler Johnson also spent time in protocol, all lasting seven days. But there are no hard-and-fast rules; some are longer and others are shorter. Young Nets big men Reggie Perry and Alize Johnson fell into the latter category, with Claxton stuck in the former.
Claxton — who at times has been the Nets’ best defender — last played on April 18 in Miami, and went into protocol the day after. Thursday marked the 11th day Claxton will have spent in protocol.
The Nets took an afternoon flight from Newark to Miami on April 17, which was Claxton’s birthday. After playing an afternoon game against the Heat the next day, they didn’t fly out afterward, not departing for New Orleans until the afternoon of April 19. Claxton and Perry went into protocol that evening.
As quickly as Perry went in, he came out. He was sidelined just two days and only missed a single game. Johnson went in on April 23, and has now been upgraded to questionable to return Thursday versus the Pacers.
The league’s system is Byzantine, and the Nets offered no clarity on why Claxton’s situation is so different than those of the other two young big men. The only thing that’s clear is that it goes back to that Miami trip.
“I believe it’s the same [root cause]. But you’d need an encyclopedia to figure that out,” Nash said. “I’m not totally positive, but I believe it’s all stemming back to the Miami trip.”
Since Griffin’s Nets debut on March 21, he leads the team in offensive rating (119.9), net rating (11.1) and plus/minus (+79). The veteran has drawn a team-high 10 charges as a Net and tops the NBA this season at 21.
Bruce Brown (right knee), James Harden (right hamstring strain), Spencer Dinwiddie (ACL) and Chris Chiozza (right hand) are out for the Nets on Thursday.
Chiozza is on a two-way deal, and it’s unclear if he’ll return in time for the playoffs. If not, with Mike James ineligible for the postseason, unless the Nets convert his 10-day to a two-way or standard deal, it could force some tough decisions.
Goga Bitadze (left ankle), Jeremy Lamb (left knee) are questionable for the Pacers, while Domantas Sabonis (sore lower back) and Myles Turner (right toe) are out.
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