Farewell, Jordan Clarkson

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets
Feb 2, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson (6) reacts after a three-point shot against the Brooklyn Nets during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Few players epitomize the Lakers rebuild the way that Jordan Clarkson does.

Drafted in 2014, Clarkson was one of the two players that officially started the next phase of Lakers basketball, selected to help lead the Lakers into a new era without Kobe Bryant.

Clarkson was selected with the 46th overall pick bought from the Washington Wizards on draft night and has spent his entire career outworking that position. Beyond Lakers’ fans wildest expectations, Clarkson carved out a niche in the league with a promising rookie season that has evolved into his becoming one of the best bench scorers in the NBA.

Clarkson was traded on Thursday hours before the deadline in a move primarily intended to open up cap flexibility in the summer of 2018. As the Lakers pin their hopes on signing star-level free agents, Clarkson became an almost necessary casualty, his contract too big to outweigh his value for a team desperate to make a splash.

The merits of the trade can be analyzed for days but what is not a question is Clarkson’s value to the Lakers.

Clarkson was never supposed to be here. He wasn’t supposed to be a Laker. He wasn’t supposed to be on the NBA All-Rookie first team or sign a big-time four-year contract.

Clarkson was drafted as a 22-year-old guard out of Missouri not expected to ever reach the level that he’s been at for his four-year career. For all his flaws and missteps, Clarkson has been a beacon of consistency through some of the worst teams to wear Purple and Gold.

His rookie year highlights allowed Lakers fans to have a glimmer of hope in a lost season with no Julius Randle to look forward to after he broke his leg in the first game of the season.

His quips with D’Angelo Russell made for some entertainment as Lakers fans sat through tanking, rookie struggles, and Byron Scott’s old man rants.

His quotes from roasting teammates to playing hard to impress the ladies made him an internet sensation and one of the most intriguing personalities on a young team poised to break out of its shell.

“I mean my pops, my family, that’s always No. 1. But second probably the girls and stuff. Females. Know what I mean? I love women.

“They don’t like you when you’re down.”

Jordan Clarkson was never a perfect player but he was the perfect person to root for during his tenure in Los Angeles. The entertainment spanned on-court dunks and crossovers and off-court styles and DM slides. The progression exemplified his hard work and inspired fans. The promising play was the lone glimmer of hope in a dark time as Lakers fans hung onto the one constant in the Lakers organization: the ability to draft impactful players with later picks.

If the Lakers’ long, arduous rebuild is truly over this summer and the stars come to Los Angeles to bring it back to its glory days, then Jordan Clarkson was the perfect player to bookend this stretch.

His introduction to the Lakers brought with it plenty of hope for a franchise entering uncharted territory. His departure is bringing in hope that the rebuild has been vindicated.

And for that, we should all be grateful for what Jordan Clarkson provided for the Lakers.

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