SAN ANTONIO — Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson kept moving around the court, shooting shots as if he would play in a game soon. But coach Byron Scott considered it a “50-50” chance Clarkson will play when the Lakers (3-19) play the San Antonio Spurs (18-5) on Friday at AT&T Center after nursing a mild sprain in his right ankle.
“He’s standing still; it’s easy to stand there and shoot,” Scott said. “You have to move around and chasing Tony Parker is no easy task with two healthy ankles.”
Scott noticed Clarkson limping around as he mostly sat out of morning shootaround drills. Clarkson also described his right ankle as a “little sore” after accidentally stepping on Andrew Wiggins’ foot during Wednesday’s overtime loss to Minnesota. So much that Clarkson joked that he and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti “ordered another ankle.”
“We’re trying to get it in before game time,” Clarkson cracked. “We’ll just see later today and try to do some stuff before the game. If it’s not doing too well, I’ll chill.”
The significance of Clarkson’s absence would go beyond the Lakers losing his season average of 15.2 points on 47 percent shooting in 31.5 minutes per game.
Clarkson would also not have the chance to play in his hometown after starring at Wagner High School (2007-10) and leading his alma mater to the state semifinals during his senior season. This also marked Clarkson’s first NBA start during his rookie season on Jan. 23, 2015. Then Clarkson posted 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, four assists and one turnover, an appearance that coincided with Kobe Bryant having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.
“It was a move I was going to make anyway,” Scott said. “All the time in practice he spent and the work he put in, I just saw the growth was getting better and better. The main thing was slowing down and the game was going 100 miles an hour. That last few months when I was contemplating on not only playing him, but starting him, I could see that transformation.”
Scott gushed that Clarkson “came out and didn’t disappoint me.” But when Clarkson learned about his promotion during morning shootaround, he contended he had no expectations. Instead, Clarkson focused on alerting as many family members and friends as possible so they could either attend the game in person or watch the game on television.
“I was just trying to go out there, play hard and trying to make the right plays and not try to mess up. Just play aggressive and try to do the best me,” Clarkson said. “It was definitely one of those things that will go down in my little book where I basically started my journey.”