Jordan Clarkson was the breakout "star" of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014-15 season, the tiny ray of hope in an otherwise almost unbelievably gloomy and snake-bitten campaign. Most fans remember the details: Julius Randle broke his leg not even a single game into his NBA career, Kobe Bryant's return was historically inefficient, Ronnie Price played a lot, and there were a lot of losses. Slightly before the All-Star Break, Byron Scott started to give Clarkson some significant burn, and it paid off.
Clarkson averaged 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5 assists per-36 minutes in his rookie campaign while shooting 44.8% from the floor on his way to a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team. Clarkson's feats were made all the more impressive given that he was not only the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft (purchased for $1.8 million from the Washington Wizards) and was playing so efficiently so soon despite using nearly a quarter of the Lakers' possessions while surrounded by sub-par teammates.
Clarkson's transition from DNP to All-Rookie gave him confidence that Russell can have a similar arc if he stays focused (via the latest column from Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News):
"I know he wants to be out there, but he's learning," Clarkson told Los Angeles News Group. "That's his best way to get his experience right now. So then when the time comes, he won't make the same mistakes."
"It helped me grow as a player in terms of watching and knowing what the NBA game is about," Clarkson said about his delayed opportunity. "Being around great minds like Kobe and Steve Nash helped the process come along faster. So when I stepped on the court, I was able to apply it."
However, according to Russell, Clarkson has yet to pass along this information:
When asked if he has offered Russell perspective on his own experience, Clarkson said, "For sure."
But Russell offered a different version. When asked if Clarkson has talked to him about the limited role to open his rookie season, Russell said, "No."
"I didn't see last year, so I don't know," Russell said. "I heard he played well in the second half of the season. I don't know what he was going through last year not to be playing. But it's all about opportunity."
This could just be a misunderstanding or miscommunication between Russell and Clarkson, or maybe Clarkson meant that he plans to impart this wisdom to Russell but has not done so yet. Either way, while it is frustrating for fans to watch Russell spend significant minutes on the bench, they don't have to look further than the other member of the team's starting backcourt for hope that it will not hinder his development as a player.