A speedy and sharpshooting point guard kept attacking him. A suffocating defense kept swarming him. A recent shooting slump kept following him.
Yet, Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson stayed calm throughout the process. He stayed locked in on defense. He still created open looks. He knocked those shots down, too.
Sure, Clarkson still committed three first-quarter turnovers in the Lakers’ 108-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday at Oracle Arena, which prompted Lakers coach Byron Scott to yank him. Clarkson also sat in the fourth quarter until the final 3:30 shortly after Jeremy Lin committed two of his five turnovers on consecutive possessions.
But Clarkson still quashed any notion that he may have hit the so-called rookie wall, providing a team-leading 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds and three assists. He also largely defended Golden State’s Stephen Curry, whose 19 points came on only 5-of-14 shooting.
“I don’t see how you get tired at 22 years old,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said before reflecting on his 14-year NBA career, including 11 with the Showtime Lakers. “I don’t see how you buy that crap anyway. I didn’t know ice was until I was 26 or 27.”
Yet, former Lakers forwards and Time Warner Cable SportsNet analysts James Worthy and Robert Horry believed fatigue and the so-called rookie wall led to Clarkson shooting a combined 32.2 percent clip in the previous three games.
“James is trying to be sympathetic to these young guys nowadays and is getting a little soft,” Scott said with a smile. “Gotta find something to talk about.”
Clarkson acknowledged that teams are loading up on screens and forcing him to speed up his tempo, which he believed led to his three turnovers. But as far as playing more games, more practices and more minutes than he ever experienced in college? Well, Clarkson found it absurd.
“I haven’t really thought about it with minutes or hitting a rookie wall,” Clarkson said. “Of course it’s a long season, but I’m still here and my motor is still going.”
Clarkson used that motor effectively against Golden State.
He attacked the lane aggressively to create both open runners and jump shots. Clarkson collaborated with the Lakers’ frontline in attacking the perimeter early both to deny open three-point shots and prevent Curry from running pick-and-roll. Through all those sequences, Clarkson appeared more vocal in both directing his teammates where to cut on offense and where to rotate on defense.
But first things first.
Clarkson narrowed back criticism toward himself. He called his game just “all right” because of his three turnovers. Clarkson also faulted himself for missing a layup as the Lakers trailed 104-101 with 32 seconds left.
“I got to be more vocal as a point guard, getting guys into places and continuing to talk to my teammates,” Clarkson said. “We’ve been around each other. We’re trying to play more with guys. The guys I’ve been on the floor with are different. But I’m trying to get everybody on the same page.”
All of which Clarkson believes will prevent him from ever hitting that rookie wall.