There were plenty of takeaways from the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, but perhaps the biggest surprise was head coach Luke Walton’s decision to bring Jordan Clarkson off of the bench.
While there has always been thought that Clarkson’s best role may eventually be a super-sub, the Lakers re-signing him to a four-year deal reportedly worth $50 million seemed to leave him positioned for a starting role.
Walton told the media the starting lineup wasn’t set in stone, but for one game at least, Clarkson thrived as a reserve. The former second-round pick tallied 12 points, played better defense than ever, and often looked like the best player on the floor.
Clarkson didn’t speak with the media following the game, but after the Lakers’ practice on Thursday he told Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com he was fine with whatever role Walton had planned for him going forward:
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Clarkson said. “As long as I’m on the court, playing minutes, I’m going to impact the game someway — if that’s defensively or offensively. I’m always going to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. That’s where I’m going to make my mark.”
Clarkson’s acceptance of sixth man duties shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as he said he would accept the role before he even re-signed in Los Angeles.
"I would do anything for my team," Clarkson told Silver Screen and Roll in June. "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."
Clarkson being benched for former Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams is a little odd, but it is just the preseason. Walton has said he’s going to experiment with a bunch of different lineups throughout the exhibition games, so Clarkson may very well end up back with the starting unit come the start of real games.
Pardon the pun, but it’s not about where he starts, it’s where he finishes.
All stats per NBA.com You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.