Nets forward Nic Claxton Claxton averaged 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and...

Nets forward Nic Claxton Claxton averaged 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks as a starter early in the season. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

After missing 17 straight games with what was described as a non-COVID illness, center Nic Claxton was active for the Nets’ win over the Timberwolves Friday night at Barclays Center. His last previous action was on Oct. 25.

He played 3:15, had one turnover and three fouls.

One published report suggested he was suffering from mononucleosis, but Claxton declined to confirm that when he spoke with reporters at Friday’s morning shootaround. He simply acknowledged that the illness compromised his conditioning.

"He'll play a little bit tonight and [Saturday night against the Bulls]," Nets coach Steve Nash said before the game. "That would be positive if he can get some minutes and continue his return to play.

"It’s not like he’s coming back to play 25 minutes a night. We want to give him opportunities to grow and improve his fitness and then worry about his performances as we go."

Claxton averaged 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in starting the first three games and coming off the bench in the fourth. His conditioning has been a source of concern for the Nets in the past, but Nash said Claxton’s health doesn’t have to be monitored when he returns.

"I think that’s behind him," Nash said. "The adaptation to the demands and his fitness and performance will be judged going forward, but we believe in Nic and we’re happy that he’s back. It’s just a matter of him getting going again in layman’s terms."

More time for Millsap

LaMarcus Aldridge recently took over as starting center while Blake Griffin moved out of the playing rotation in favor of Paul Millsap as the backup. "Right now, I’m just giving Paul an opportunity," Nash said. "He sat and waited patiently, playing spot minutes here and there and not playing sometimes. He’s earned an opportunity and I think he’s playing quite well. It’s just a matter of seeing if he develops with this group and finds a real comfort zone."

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