Life has changed drastically over the last year for Jordan Clarkson. No longer the unknown, second round pick out of Missouri, Clarkson understands that he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season.
How will he handle the additional attention from opposing teams? More work.
“Just taking it how I’ve always taken it, continuing to work. Watch film, see what teams are going to do to prevent me from doing what I like to do. If I continue to work and stay on what I do, I feel like I’ll be alright.”
That work ethic led to a sensational rookie year for the 46th overall pick in last year’s draft, earning him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie first team. What also helped Clarkson develop last season while he sat on the Lakers bench, was his time spent with the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
“I think it helped a lot. The D-League stints really helped me out. In a way you do [get better sitting on the bench], by watching. But being able to put it on the court and try stuff in the D-League gives you more confidence to try and do it when you get up there [with the Lakers].”
Last season, Clarkson transformed his tumble on the NBA Draft board into motivation. He admitted to almost an obsession with watching the 2014 draft on several occasions last year, watching a handful of point guards get picked before him. It put a chip on his shoulder — a chip that is still there.
“For me, I’m coming in wanting to prove stuff again. We didn’t have a fairly good team last year, but being able to prove I can do it on a good team is definitely going to be one of the things I look at throughout this year. I always try to find things to motivate me throughout the year.”
Another source of motivation? Clarkson joked about the disappointment of his player rating in NBA 2K16. “That’s probably one of everybody’s biggest goals: Get your 2K rating up.”
As for what head coach Byron Scott wants Clarkson to improve on this year? The focus will be on defense, with an expanded role as a leader.
“Definitely defensively. He wants me to get into guys and use my length to pressure guys, and make people uncomfortable. But he also wants my to grow as a leader as well. He preached that to me during Summer League. Continuing to grow and being comfortable talking to guys.”
Of course, it is much easier to pressure the basketball out on the perimeter when you have a defensive anchor waiting behind you to protect the basket. Clarkson noted the impact Hibbert’s presence will have for the team’s defensive efforts this season.
“It makes things a lot more comfortable with Roy back there, forcing them to the lanes and stuff like that. We’ve been here all summer, playing pickup games, and he does an amazing job of talking. That’s something we definitely need.”
For anyone that was able to watch Clarkson answer questions, his increased level of confidence and comfort was apparent. As a rookie, he was really quiet and reserved. That does not seem to be the case this year.
When asked by Chris McGee who the best point guard in last year’s draft class is, Clarkson shot him a look of disbelief and replied, “That’s a serious question?”
The response reminded me a bit of Kobe Bryant’s tendency to be very blunt and straight-forward with the media. Clarkson laughed a bit about the question, but the confidence radiated off him. “I’m not saying anyone else.”
With the insertion of No. 2 overall pick, D’Angelo Russell, there has been a lot of talk of Clarkson sliding over to the shooting guard spot, while Bryant will move to the three. With that probably holding true, the 23-year-old will still likely see some time at the point guard position, but he is prepared to make an impact on the game, either way.
When asked what position he will play this year, Clarkson simply responded, “I’m just a player, ready to go.”
*All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable SportsNet