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Nic Claxton Says Nets Were 'Kind of a Toxic Environment' Last Season

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2023

Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton (33) runs down the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)
AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh

Nic Claxton said the quiet part out loud: The Brooklyn Nets were not a fun team to play on last season.

The Nets center called last season's locker room a "toxic environment" when asked how the team's play will differ from a year ago with Kevin Durant again out of the lineup.

"Well, last year it was...It was kind of a toxic environment," Claxton told reporters after Tuesday's loss to the Spurs. "We didn't know if everybody wanted to be here at the time. This year, there's no divide between everybody that's out there. We're going to figure it out. … We've just got to figure out how to play with each other without having KD, Kyrie [Irving] out there on the court. It's different lineups. But we'll figure it out."

Brooklyn has dropped three straight games since losing Durant to an MCL sprain. He's expected to miss around a month of action, derailing what had been a promising Nets turnaround.

Last season, Durant suffered a similar injury and the Nets went 5-16 in his absence. Claxton's comments could be viewed as a shot at James Harden, who pouted his way through games without Durant before ultimately forcing a midseason trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nets were also dealing with drama related to Kyrie Irving's extended absence last season over his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving did not play his first game with the Nets last season until Jan. 5, and even then was only eligible to play in road games because of New York City's vaccination mandate.

Brooklyn was the No. 2 seed at the time of Durant's injury this season, much the same as last. A year ago, the "toxic environment" resulted in a drop all the way to the No. 8 seed and a berth in the play-in tournament. If Claxton's comments prove correct, the Nets should be able to hold down the fort and avoid a nosedive in the standings this season.

Early results haven't been promising with the team already falling to fourth in the East, but they'll get a chance to end their losing streak Thursday against the 21-24 Phoenix Suns.