Through both the good and the bad, Lakers rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson remains restless.
Clarkson’s memories have stayed fresh regarding his uncomfortable feeling when he waited for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to call his name during the 2014 NBA Draft, only to sit through an entire first round without that confirmation. In fact, Clarkson did not hear his name called until the 46th pick, which the Lakers bought from the Washington Wizards for $1.8 million. So as he experienced a rookie season that morphed from seldom-used reserve to a definitive starter, Clarkson watched last year’s draft between eight to 10 times to further remind himself of what drives him.
“It’s just kind of one of those things that keeps me hungry,” Clarkson said after last week’s exit meetings. “When I have a bad game, I watch the film and just kind of remember everything. I try not to put two bad games together. It’s kind of what gets me over the hump.”
The approach worked.
Clarkson ended his rookie season averaging a team-leading 15.8 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting, five assists and 4.2 rebounds. Even when accounting for Clarkson sitting out 23 of the Lakers’ first 43 games, his season-long averages still finished high in his rookie class. He ranked second in scoring average (11.9 points per game), third in assists (3.6), third in free-throw percentage (82.9) and fourth in field-goal percentage (44.8).
That prompted Lakers Byron Scott to declare publicly the Lakers will retain Clarkson, who has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2015-16 season worth $845,059. Lakers forward Carlos Boozer also likened Clarkson to a “little baby Westbrook,” called him “the steal of the draft” and told him he would pay to take his kids see him play within three to four years after he retires.
“To Jordan’s credit from day one,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “he embraced the opportunity and got better and better as the season went on.”
But as the Lakers enter a busy offseason, how will Clarkson’s emergence affect how the franchise fills their seemingly infinite amount of roster needs?