Brooklyn Boro

Nets dealing Bridges, keeping Claxton

Reportedly trade forward to Knicks, but re-signing center

June 27, 2024 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Brooklyn Nets didn’t have a pick in the first round of Wednesday’s NBA Draft at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

But that didn’t prevent them from making plenty of news.

ESPN reported Wednesday that Brooklyn is dealing forward Mikal Bridges, whom they acquired in the swap that sent Kevin Durant to Phoenix two seasons ago, to the arch rival New York Knicks for a package that includes five first-round picks.

While Nets general manager Sean Marks won’t get to bring in a rookie until at least Thursday, he’s making sure one of the team’s most valuable assets remains in the fold.

Center Nic Claxton, who has been bourgeoning into a hot commodity since being selected in the second round of the 2019 draft, will receive a four-year, $100 million contract from Brooklyn once free agency begins on June 30.

Claxton averaged 11.8 points, a career-best 9.9 rebounds and ranked sixth in the league with 2.1 blocked shots per contest.

Marks intimated following the exit interviews in April that Claxton was the team’s top priority in the offseason after Brooklyn failed to reach the postseason for the first time in six years.

“We hope Nic’s a Net for a very long time,” Marks said. “We hope we can continue to build around him, and build with him, and so forth.”

So does newly hired Brooklyn coach Jordi Fernandez, who gushed over the 6-foot-11 University of Georgia alum at his introductory press conference in May.

“For us, he’s a priority in this summer,” the 41-year-old native of Baradona, Spain said of Claxton, who was going into unrestricted free agency.

“And the way we can play through him — obviously he’s great in pick-and-roll, he’s quick to the rim, he puts pressure on the rim — but also his ability to play the dribble-handoff game, which, as you guys know, lately in the NBA is a style that is very efficient.”

The Nets want four more years of center Nic Claxton at $25 million per as the free-agent center will stay in Downtown Brooklyn. AP Photo by Peter K. Afriyie

Fernandez was even willing to go as far as saying Claxton will be Defensive Player of the Year. Now, he’ll have at least four years to find out.

As for Bridges, the writing was on the wall for his departure following an inconsistent first full season in Brooklyn.

The 6-foot-6 Villanova alum made an immediate impact following his arrival in February 2022, averaging a team-high 26.1 points over the final 27 games and driving the Nets into the postseason despite the departures of Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But season two was a different story. Despite extending his career-long streak of consecutive games played to a startling 474, Bridges was inconsistent, especially with his shooting, throughout the campaign.

He put up 19.6 points per contest on 43.6% shooting, his lowest average from the field since his rookie year in Phoenix in 2018-19.

Bridges should be a good fit across the East River, where the Knicks re-signed OG Anunoby to a whopping $210 pact, according to the Associated Press.

The player who hasn’t missed a single game in either his collegiate or NBA career was admittedly disappointed following Brooklyn’s 50-loss campaign.

“You could say it was a failure. 100%. It’s tough, you know? Especially seeing the teams that are in there [the playoffs], and you just know the talent we have and things like that,” Bridges admitted.

“I don’t think there was any part of my brain that thought that I’d be sitting here talking to you guys like this before this season … You gotta be better. That’s the biggest thing I take from it.”

Nets head coach Jordi Fernandez hopes to point the way to a medal for Team Canada at next month’s Olympics in Paris. AP Photo by David Zalubowski

NOTHING BUT NET: Marks made moves just after midnight into Wednesday, acquiring the Nets’ 2025 first-round draft pick, negating a previously agreed to swap, and their first-round pick in 2026, from the Houston Rockets in exchange for a 2025 first-round pick swap (Houston/Oklahoma City for Phoenix), the Phoenix Suns’ 2027 first-round pick and the rights to the two most favorable of the Dallas, Phoenix and Houston first round picks in 2029. Brooklyn retained the least favorable of Dallas, Houston and Phoenix’s first round draft picks in 2029, according to a team-issued statement. … Fernandez is one month away from coaching Team Canada against Australia in the opening game of the 2024 Paris Olympics. He had previously been assistant for Team Nigeria under Mike Brown, whom he worked under in Sacramento before being hired by the Nets.

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