Drop coverage served the Nets well when shot-blocking Jarrett Allen was on the roster. But their new switch-heavy defense is a better fit for a deep playoff run in the modern NBA — and the tandem of Nic Claxton and Jeff Green are making it possible.
“Nic is a guy that can cover anyone, more or less,” coach Steve Nash said. “Whether it’s [a guard] or one of their bigs, he can give them a different looks and still contain and make it difficult for them. That’s a unique skill set in our league.
“Versatility gives us options. And Jeff is similar, more so with his experience and mobility, Nic a little more length. So it’s great to have guys with versatility. [It] gives us options and allows us to push different buttons.”
Of every NBA duo that has logged at least 45 minutes, Claxton and Green’s 29.5 net rating was seventh-best coming into Friday’s 121-113 loss to the Magic. His 39.4 net rating when paired with Joe Harris was actually first.
“He’s added a lot. … That second unit, we were able to switch one to five with him,” Harris said. “He’s starting to find even more of a rhythm defensively.”
Despite not making his season debut until Feb. 23, Claxton has quickly made a defensive impact. Much of that is giving the Nets a pair of bigs that can switch, something DeAndre Jordan hasn’t really done in years.
“We’ve been good at communicating with each other, being on the same page. Nic’s an outstanding talent who can guard one through five. … He’s been great,” Green said of playing with Claxton, adding their ability to both switch has played a role in the defensive surge. “Hopefully a good amount.
“We’re just using the ability that God gave us, being versatile guys who can go out and switch one through five, hold our own on the perimeter against the guards and inside against the bigs. … This is the abilities we’ve been blessed with, and we’re just utilizing them the best we can and hoping that leads to a win for our team.”
Blake Griffin is inching closer to making his Nets debut.
“Blake, I don’t know when he’s coming back, but soon. I think soon. It’s gonna be exciting,” Green said.
The Nets host the Wizards on Sunday, and Nash wouldn’t rule out Griffin playing that soon.
“I don’t know. He’s getting closer,” Nash said. “He’s doing great, looks good and is improving. And working hard off the floor as well. He’s addressing all the things he needs to address to land safely back in the game and to transition into our team. That’s not easy. We don’t want to take that for granted.“He has to adapt to the way we play, new teammates, new system, new style. But he’s doing everything you could ask. Just his presence is important, because he’s an intelligent, mature, experienced player. We’re looking forward to having him. I don’t know when that’ll be, but it’s coming. He does look really good right now.”
With attention on the disparity in treatment of men’s and women’s players at the NCAA Tournament, Kyrie Irving took the NCAA to task on social media and doubled down after Friday’s game.
“We go out and show an effort like that in terms of how we show our respect for our queens going to play on a high level as well. It can’t happen in our society,” Irving said. “It’s been happening for years and we just have social platforms to be able to amplify it, but we need to make a change not only in the NCAA, but in youth sports with girls.
“It’s unacceptable for that to be going on — for that not even to be a conversation about what the women need there and for it to be an example of the highest level of basketball for some of these collegiate athletes to be there and that’s the example that is set. So, everyone talks a good game about how they want to change things in this world and society and they had a chance. The NCAA failed.”
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/03/20/nic-claxton-jeff-green-tandem-anchoring-nets-new-defense/ on .