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Durant defends Claxton after Harrell’s apparent slight: ‘give somebody some credit, it ain’t that hard’

The Montrezl Harrell-Nic Claxton beef has another twist as Slim Reaper himself feels the need to weigh in.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So we have a bit of smack talk going on between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. The NBA chose the Nets and the Sixers to play on national TV during “Rivalry Week.” I’m not sure the league really followed the true meaning or spirit of rivalry since they pitted the Sixers against the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets. Surely, if you really wanted to pick this Sixers team’s “rivals” it would have to include the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors who Joel Embiid and co. have met twice each in the playoffs.

But Denver-Philly has the whole “Nikola Jokic earned All-NBA center honors and was voted MVP by a shamelessly biased media over Embiid all in back-to-back seasons,” thing. So it’s at least a rivalry among the fanbase if not the players and teams.

And regarding the Nets, it’s a splash trade driving the apparent rivalry, again more about the fans than the teams themselves, perhaps. Kevin Durant and Nets former coach Steve Nash, for example, don’t really consider anything a rivalry unless you’ve met in the playoffs at least one or more times they noted last season. Now that’s what rivalry looks like:

But the NBA knew that because of the James Harden for Seth Curry blockbuster (that also included Andre Drummond, a pair of first round picks and Ben Simmons) trade, things might get chippy between Philadelphia and Brooklyn. There was more than enough evidence to suggest it would at the time schedule makers worked their magic last summer:

It’s usually KD and Embiid going at it, either waving each other off a court, or getting into the other’s face. These two have an especially fascinating relationship. Embiid openly, and admittedly has modeled his pull up game after Slim Reaper (you know the move where he ever so subtly pushes forward with the ball in his left hand feigning drive then stops and pops):

Who wore it better?

And KD cast his (non-existent) MVP vote for Joel last season:

So these guys talk endless trash while still holding each other in the highest regard. That’s a pretty fun combination.

But even though Durant was out for that big game (having suffered a sprained MCL) there was still a whole bunch of spice to this one.

Joel and Ben Simmons exchanged words, and some shoves. But Nets big Nic Claxton was a surprise entry to the whole thing, and Clax not only played a great game, he clearly got under Embiid’s skin at times nearly drawing an ejection on a frustrated JoJo - who’d already picked up a tech for jawing.

But prior to the tip off of the game, it was Sixers reserve big Montrezl Harrell who got things started.

Per Ky Carline of SixersWire:

“I don’t know nothing about that, brother,” said Harrell. “We’re talking about a guy who steps up, but at the same time, Kyrie Irving. Same as if Kevin Durant was there, it’d be him too. At the same time, it’s good that he’s playing well and stuff like that. Cool, but it’s not the focal point of our (defense) or what we’re trying to take away. We know the head of that engine is through Kyrie. and everything that they’ve been doing since KD has been out, it’s been through Kyrie.”

“So kudos to him (Claxton), but at the same time, brother, that’s not a focal of my lock-in point,” Harrell finished. “I’m just coming out making sure Kyrie isn’t going downhill, making sure he’d not creating for his guys, and making sure he isn’t causing a whole lot of havoc in order to get Claxton open.”

And Claxton, still only 23 year-old, who has been having himself a Clint Capela type impact at times this year, protecting the rim, switching out onto guards, and finishing lobs with ease, clapped back on Trez himself.

“I just want to know what he’s doing this year, what his resume is? It definitely adds a little fuel to the fire,” Claxton said of Trez when told his the comments, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

And that was basically that. A little jawing, all between big men, back on Jan. 25.

But Kevin Durant has entered the fray, backing up his young center, nearly a week later.

On a recent episode of The ETCs with Kevin Durant KD praised Claxton’s consistency and development. He’s not expecting him to drop 25 and 12, like he did vs. Philly each night. But Durant loves to see how young buhl’s been working on his free throw form, hook shots and other elements.

Per KD, on The ETCs:

“Montrezl? C’Mon Montrezl. Like you was talking crazy. Like Montrezl, not like that. You’re an enforcer as a basketball player but you’re not that guy. Like c’mon man. Clax having a good year, bro c’mon. Don’t do that.... A little shade in that. It was a little shade in of course Kyrie the head of the snake. Just like Joel Embiid the head of the snake. But we’re not gonna forget about Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey and you [Trez], and James [Harden], like c’mon bro. Give somebody some credit, it ain’t that hard.”

Durant’s sticking up for his guy. And doesn’t get why Trez would throw a little shade at a player whose been improving fast. Claxton was banged up his first couple years, with plenty of G League stints. And now, Nets fans are so excited about him some Clax-stans refuse to even entertain the idea of using him as bait to land another big this deadline; that’s how well he’s played recently, even despite the glaring free throw struggles or awkward fit alongside Ben Simmons.

This year Claxton averages 13.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks (that last stat is so absurd for a 29.5 mpg dude that I’m wondering if Brooklyn might have some Memphis style stat keeping jawn going here) shooting 75 percent from the field and 47 percent from the line. Claxton gave James Harden a few fits when he switched onto him 25 feet from the cup. And he’d had Trae Young and Luka Doncic in jail at different times last season too.

Durant gives props to Joel Embiid and how he still respects Tobias, Maxey, and others. He just wishes Trez would’t have cast any shade on his boy.

But it all proves the NBA’s point that despite the lack of playoff meetings, this one has all the brewings of a rivalry. Right Jared Dudley?

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