If there has been one positive on the court for the Lakers in the past two seasons, it has been 24-year-old guard Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson has quickly become a household name in Los Angeles, captivating fans with his combination of athleticism and the ability to be productive despite being coached by Tank-master General, Byron Scott. Since being acquired on draft night from the Washington Wizards, Clarkson has vastly outplayed his draft slot. The combo guard is due for a sizable pay raise, and the Lakers don’t seem to be the only team interested in giving it to him.
ESPN’s Ian Begley reported last night that the New York Knicks have interest in Clarkson, needing a lead guard– as stated by GM Steve Mills. Begley also mentions it is almost a certainty that the Lakers retain the fan-favorite guard.
Restricted Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson also has fans in the Knicks organization, but it seems as if Los Angeles will retain the second-year player.
Clarkson is a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer, but it would seemingly take divine intervention to pry him away from the Lakers. Clarkson is not a normal RFA, he’s an ‘Arenas Rule’ RFA, which means teams will not be able to offer him as much money as the Lakers. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times did a better job of explaining what that means:
“The Arenas provision was created because Golden State was unable to match Washington’s offer in 2002 to Arenas, a second-round draft pick whose career was on the rise after only two NBA seasons. Golden State was hamstrung by the salary cap, so Washington was able to pry him away.
Teams with enough salary-cap room can give Clarkson a max of $57.8 million over four years or $34.1 million over three years. Clarkson can sign an offer sheet with only one team, which the Lakers have the option of matching.”
The Lakers can offer him a max of nearly 90 million dollars, but they can match any team’s any offer sheet, which would be significantly cheaper than a max contract. An excerpt from Larry Coon, in the same LA Times piece, lays out the likeliest scenario.
“The Lakers’ options are open right now,” said salary-cap expert Larry Coon. “They can either let him try the free-agent market knowing that, at the very worst, some team is going to spring an Arenas contract on him that they won’t mind matching. Or they can offer him a slightly better deal that’s still better than he can get anywhere else.”
On top of the ease of the Lakers retaining Clarkson, he is pushing to continue his career in Purple and Gold. “JC” has made it clear that returning to Los Angeles is what he desires. In a recent sit-down with Silver Screen & Roll’s Harrison Faigen, Clarkson expressed the same sentiment, also mentioning how he’s already been in the gym working on his three-point shot. He could also be saying “Suh, dude.” (read the comments) to the 6th man role, as the guard expressed a willingness to move to the bench for the betterment of the team.
“I would do anything for my team,” said Clarkson when asked to clarify the comments about coming off the bench he made to Michael Pina of Bleacher Report. “If coming off the bench was something that was good for the team and we’re winning games then I’m always down with that. I’m not worried about who starts or any of that as long as I’m impacting the game. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day.”
It is all but a certainty that Clarkson will be back with the Lakers come July. Come on, who wouldn’t want to be coached by Luke Walton? (You’re lying to yourself if you say you wouldn’t.) Given the fandom that he has amassed in his short stint in LA, Lakers fans will be the ones running around their houses, yelling, when they get the news of Clarkson returning.