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Nets coach Steve Nash has strong friendship with Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce

Nets coach Steve Nash, left, and Hawks coach

Nets coach Steve Nash, left, and Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce chat before an NBA game Wednesday at Barclays Center. The two were teammates at Santa Clara University.  Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

When the Nets faced the Hawks Wednesday night at Barclays Center, it marked a rare happening in NBA history, maybe a first. Head coaches Steve Nash of the Nets and Lloyd Pierce of the Hawks both played their college basketball at Santa Clara in California and have a strong friendship.

"It’s awesome," Nash said before the game. "He’s one of my close friends. I hosted him on his recruiting visit. We were teammates and have been close friends ever since. To watch him go the coaching route, find his way in the league and thrive the way he has and see him just become an incredible man.

"What he’s done for voting rights and civil rights in Georgia and Atlanta the way he has as a young coach, led his team, he’s been incredibly impressive. He’s inspired me, and to get a chance to coach against him is really special. I’m so proud of everything he’s done. It’s cool that I get to share in it a little bit and coach against him."

Nash sees rapid growth of Young

Nash also has a relationship with Hawks star Trae Young, who came in averaging an NBA-high 34.0 points per game, including 42-for-46 free-throw shooting and 8-for-19 three-point shooting. The Hawks, who also will play the Nets again on Friday at Barclays, have seven other scorers around him averaging double figures.

"I saw Trae, we have a relationship and I’m always going to watch him and Lloyd for sure," Nash said. "I’d say the biggest difference from last year is free-throw shooting. He’s getting to the line at an incredible rate. At his size, that is not normal and not easy to do, so, it’s really impressive. That’s just another step in his growth."

Claxton not close to return

Discussing the absence of forward Nic Claxton (right knee tendinopathy), Nash said, "I think he’s improving for sure, but I think he’s still weeks away. He is steadily improving, but I don’t think he’s close to practicing."

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