After being surprisingly healthy in last season’s breakthrough campaign, the Nets’ Nic Claxton acknowledged how frustrating his ankle injury has been, one that has sidelined him longer than he’d expected.
“It’s been frustrating, especially getting hurt the first game of the season, and even the way to the way I did it. But it’s coming along. I’m day-to-day now, just trying to keep myself in a good space, keep supporting my teammates,” said Claxton, who hasn’t played since the opening loss to Cleveland.
“After a couple days … I saw it was taking a little bit longer than I expected and everybody expected. Like I said, it’s frustrating but it’s an 82-game season, so what can you do? I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way. I’m just taking it day-by-day.”
In Claxton’s absence, 6-foot-7, 220-pound Dorian Finney-Smith has started all five games as a small-ball center.
Neither Claxton nor coach Jacque Vaughn had an estimated return date for the former.
“No setbacks for Nic. We just continued to see how it progresses. He’ll continue to be day-to-day. That’s just part of his build-up, what he looks like, how he presents on a daily basis,” Vaughn said.
Saturday night’s game against visiting Boston — which is the league’s lone unbeaten team following their 124-114 win over the Nets — marked the fifth straight game he has missed with a sprained left ankle.
The Nets’ starting center suffered the injury in the regular season opener against Cleveland on a flukey play, hobbling through the rest of the game.
“Yeah, I just landed. Like, I just came down. I didn’t land on anybody’s foot, I just kind of landed kind of funny and it just tweaked,” Claxton recalled. “It was pretty painful. I ended up playing the rest of the game, but I was pretty hobbled.”
Claxton is listed with an ankle sprain, but the 24-year-old clarified that it’s a high ankle sprain, the higher the worse in general layman’s terms.
Recovery times can range from weeks to months, though he’s been out of the walking boot for days.
“I’m back working out, so we’ll see,” Claxton said. “It’s a high ankle sprain. I don’t know if any of y’all have ever dealt with a high ankle sprain. It’s my first time, it’s not fun. It’s pain tolerance, it’s being good just mentally. You don’t want to go out there and put yourself in a bad position especially so early in the season.
“So I’m just taking it day-by-day.”
After being dogged by injuries early in his career and seeing his development stunted, Claxton finally stayed healthy a year ago and had a huge campaign.
In the six games he missed, only one was due to injury.
After leading the league in stocks (steals plus blocks) last season with 254, Claxton came into training camp openly talking about aiming for the All-Defense team, or even Defensive Player of the Year.
Instead, Claxton has missed five straight, and it’s conceivable he’ll miss more.
The Nets host Milwaukee on Monday, and he has yet to fully participate in a pregame shootaround or practice.
Still, he’s out of the boot, icing his ankle regularly, doing physical therapy and glad to be back in Brooklyn after the long nine-day, four-game road trip.
“I’m so happy to be back home. That was a crazy road trip to start the season,” Claxton said. “It’s just good like you said just having everything in-house. Not being in hotel rooms, going in different gyms, having everything here and being able to just go home and sleep in your own bed. It’s good for the mental, the physical. So I’m hoping to be back out there real soon.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost