Brooklyn center Nic Claxton is off the injury report and available for the first time since the regular-season opener.
And with the young big man’s highly anticipated return, the injury-riddled Nets’ game of musical — or medical — chairs is finally starting to slow down.
Both Claxton and starting power forward Cam Johnson went down in the opening-night loss to Cleveland, while Ben Simmons has been in and out of the lineup (currently the latter), and Cam Thomas has a sprained ankle of his own.
But Johnson returned Friday night in Boston.
And Claxton is next.
The team had listed Claxton with a left ankle sprain, while the 24-year-old himself acknowledged it was a high ankle sprain, which are more significant rotational injuries that stress the ligaments above the ankle that hold the shin bones together.
As such, the injury sidelined Claxton for the past eight games.
It was a galling setback after he missed just one game last season due to injuries in a breakout campaign that saw him average 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks (second in the league) and was in the top five for Most Improved Player.
“It’s been frustrating, especially getting hurt the first game of the season, and even the way I did it. But it’s coming along. I’m day-to-day now, just trying to keep myself in a good space, keep supporting my teammates,” Claxton said recently as his rehab progressed.
“After a couple days … I saw it was taking a little bit longer than I expected and everybody expected. Like I said, it’s frustrating, but it’s an 82-game season, so what can you do? I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way. I’m just taking it day-by-day.”
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Dorian Finney-Smith was pressed into starting as a grossly undersized small-ball center in all eight games that Claxton missed.
But Brooklyn sent Claxton to practice with G-League Long Island on Wednesday, and at Friday morning’s shootaround in Boston he was going 3-on-3 with big man Harry Giles III and several of the Nets’ assistant coaches — cutting, moving laterally and playing live defense.
It was a clear sign that Claxton was on the brink of a return. Now he’s reached that point, set to suit up Sunday against Washington.
Giles, who has suffered through an arduous injury comeback, had seven points in five minutes Friday in Boston.
It marked his first NBA action in 2 ½ years.
“It felt great, man. It felt great,” Giles said. “Just got to be ready anytime. You never know. It felt good to get up and down, and get my first run in a Brooklyn Nets jersey and my first run of the season. It felt good and I’m thankful.”