Through the first 37 games of his rookie season, it hasn’t quite been what Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson had initially envisioned.
The 22-year-old for the most part has been a healthy DNP-CD (did not play – coach’s decision) through the early portion of the season. Head coach Byron Scott has elected to heavily limit Clarkson’s minutes on the basis that feels that the young point guard is not ready because “the game is still going 90 MPH” for him.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that Scott had stated just three days prior to the start of the regular season that he wasn’t overly confident in playing Clarkson early on in the year.
“I’m not overly excited about him playing [at point guard] as a rookie, this early, but in an emergency situation, I think he’ll be able to handle it well,” Scott said. “I just talked to him about running the show, thinking about getting guys to where they need to be — not to think about shot first.”
Despite that, the Lakers have found other ways to get Clarkson on the court by sending him down to the d-league to play for the team’s affiliate, Los Angeles Defenders, for a few stints this season.
In five games played, he is averaging 22.6 points, 7.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds in 36.0 minutes per game. This includes 35 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds in the Defenders’ last home game on Jan. 3.
Though he has played well for the Defenders, it hasn’t transferred over to more playing time with the Lakers. However, Clarkson has recently began to receive more playing time in the last three games.
This was capped off by his best performance of the season in the Lakers 114-89 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 7. with a team-high 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting with four rebounds, and two assists in 20 minutes played.
Although much of his production came in garbage time in the fourth quarter, Clarkson displayed much promise with his play with10 points scored in a variety of ways.
He made his first basket of the quarter on a pull-up jumper. After an assist on a jumper made by Nick Young, Clarkson followed it up with a driving layup that showed his quickness and explosiveness when he has the ball in his hands.
On the next possession, he once again used his quickness to get to the rim but this time found fellow rookie Tarik Black, who got a dunk and foul. His most impressive play in the quarter came on an alley-oop dunk in transition off a pass from Young.
It was a play that put Clarkson’s athletic ability on full display as he used his quickness to get down the court, and grabbed Young’s lob pass that was chest high and slammed it in. It was an overall performance that Scott was encouraged by, but sees much room from improvement that he believes will occur with more experience.
“I thought the game kind of slowed down for him,” head coach Byron Scott said at Thursday’s practice. “Like I said, with him it’s just a matter of just getting that experience. … When he gets in, he goes 110 miles per hour, and so does the game.
“He has to learn as a young point guard and a young player that you’ve got to go at different speeds — because he has the speed, the quickness, to get by people. Sometimes you just got to slow it down and then burst.”
The Lakers are quite aware of the type of player and upside that Clarkson has when they bought the rights to the Washington’s Wizards 46th overall pick in the 2014 draft for $1.8 million.
Although he played much of his junior season at Missouri with a heavy heart due to his father’s illness, he displayed plenty of potential to be a factor on both sides of the court at the professional level.
It has been a difficult process for Clarkson to remain patient with his limited playing time, but if he continues to show improve in his decision making and shot selection it could lead to more action. All in all, the 22-year-old has a promising future ahead of him with the Lakers.
Photo Credit: John Locher / Associated Press