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Nets Welcome Nic Claxton and Jaylen Hands to Brooklyn

Draft picks joined by GM Sean Marks at introductory press conference

Last Thursday’s NBA Draft had its share of unpredictability and moving parts, with the Brooklyn Nets getting in on the draft night dealing as they shipped this year’s No. 27 pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2020 first-round pick and this year’s No. 56 pick, used to select UCLA guard Jaylen Hands.

Hands and No. 31 pick Nic Claxton from Georgia — the first selection of the second round — have arrived in Brooklyn and on Monday were introduced in a press conference at HSS Training Center, joined by GM Sean Marks.

Here's five key points addressed at Monday's press conference:

EXPECTATIONS AND OPPORTUNITY ARE WIDE OPEN

Claxton and Hands are each 20 years old and coming off sophomore seasons. They’re joining an organization coming off a 42-win season and playoff berth, one that has seen contributions from rookies like Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs the last two seasons.

Allen and Kurucs might have contributed a little quicker than even the organization expected, so Marks isn’t putting any limitations on them.

“As far as their development, I think that’s something we pride ourselves on, from (coach) Kenny (Atkinson), the assistant coaches, performance team, all the way through here,” said Marks. “I’d hate to pigeonhole one of these guys into, ‘hey, this is gonna be his path.’ I think we’ve run into some problems with that in the past, if we’ve said, ‘he’s going to play in the G League,’ or he’s going to do this or he’s going to do that when all of a sudden we get a guy like for instance take Rodi last year, he rose to the occasion. I never want to limit any of the guys we have in here. Through our scouting them, seeing them live, watching them on tape, getting to meet them, interview both these guys, these young gentlemen, I think they fit with what we’re trying to do here, what we’re trying to build here. I think again the opportunity will be here for them to succeed.”

That goes for position fit as well. The 6-foot-11 Claxton is rangy and athletic with a perimeter feel, so Marks isn’t slotting him into the 4 or 5 spot yet.

“I think that’s yet to be determined,” said Marks. “I think something about Nic’s game, it’s well-documented the growth spurt that he had and the fact that he was a point guard and handled the ball at a young age so he has those skills that come up through and he hasn’t lost that ball-handling ability, so when you get a guy that I have to look up to that can handle the all like a point guard, that’s intriguing. Again, that’s a case of you get him on the court with Kenny and the coaching staff and you see where they feel his fit may be best suited.”

NEXT STOP: VEGAS

Both players are expected to play in the Las Vegas Summer League that begins on Friday, July 5 after spending this week getting acclimated in Brooklyn.

“I’m really excited to get out there,” said Hands. “I’m more excited to be out here in Brooklyn for the next couple of weeks and get to know everyone and just get to work. It’s a dream come true, so I’m really excited.

“Being able to play in Summer League is definitely going to be a dope experience,” said Claxton. “I’ve been watching the Summer League since I was yay high. It’ll be fun to go out there, compete and play in Summer League, just being in Vegas and get acclimated with everything and start to put my work in. It’ll be fun.”

DRAFT NIGHT

Claxton had a good feeling about Brooklyn after his workout with the team, and a better one after deputy commission Marc Tatum called his name at Barclays Center last Thursday night.

“I was here a few weeks ago for my workout and I really enjoyed it,” said Claxton. “It was one of the workouts that really stuck out for me, the staff and even all the way down to the personnel here. It was different. It was a different feel. The city. I just had a good feeling. Like I always say, I feel like God, he has a way of just making everything right so when I heard my name called the 31st pick, I was blessed and I was happy right away and I’m really emotional so you were able to just see it in my face. I was just happy, man. I’m still happy and I’m ready to get to work.”

While Claxton had the full draft night experience and spent the weekend checking out the city, Hands watched from home and flew in on Sunday. No matter how you experience it, the draft night is a special one.

“I watched it with my parents and my little sister,” said Hands. “It was a crazy experience just hearing your name be called. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, something for me it was something I’ll never forget.”

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COINCIDENTAL CONNECTIONS

When UCLA played in China in 2017, the Hands and the Bruins were greeted by Nets minority partner Joe Tsai, who was familiar with the UCLA freshman from his high school play in San Diego.

“He was talking to us and then mentioned he lived in La Jolla and his kids watch basketball in San Diego and they were fans of me,” said Hands. “It was really cool get to get to know him. At time I wasn’t really aware of how big a deal he was. Just doing research with some of our other coaches and finding out how much he means was crazy! So for it to come full circle means a lot. I can’t wait to meet him again.”

Claxton has played internationally for the Virgin Islands, where his father Charles grew up. He’s actually faced off against Nets center Jarrett Allen, who was playing for the U.S. in age group action.

“I don’t remember much honestly exactly playing him that particular game, but I’m a big time basketball fan,” said Claxton. “I’ve been watching the Nets and watching him. I pretty much know his game. i think he does a great job just protecting the rim, finishing around the basket, he’s extremely long. Me and him on the court we can be extremely disruptive, especially on the defensive end.”

NETS IMPRESSIONS

Claxton and Hands both weighed in on what they’ve seen from their new team in action over the past year.

“The team is really centered off the pick and roll, getting downhill,” said Hands. “They put up a lot of threes, Jarrett Allen is protecting the rim, rim-running. So, I think it’s a lot of modern NBA basketball, making decisions off the pick and roll and just playing, getting up and down. So, I really like that. That fits my game.”

“One thing that really stuck out to me, just being a basketball fan, is watching their bench and how excited the players on the bench get for the guys that are out on the court,” said Claxton. “That’s more like a college feeling when it comes to that. That’s really cool because my freshman year in college I was one of those guys on the bench just getting excited for the players out on the court. That’s really good to have, especially in an NBA organization because you really don’t see it that much.”

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