Anyone looking for a controversy over Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s decision to bring Jordan Clarkson off of the bench is going to have to keep searching. Clarkson has reiterated numerous times that he’s okay with the move, and Walton has praised him endlessly for both his defense and his acceptance of the new role.
Still, it was surprising that the new head coach decided to move Clarkson back to the pine for the first time since he broke out in the second half of his rookie year. For his part, Walton doesn’t see the move as that big of a deal.
“I don’t look at it as really coming off the bench as much as the way Lamar [Odom] came off our bench but he was really a starter,” Walton told Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com. “He played big minutes, played the end of ball games. Ginobili did it for years in San Antonio... It’s really a way of getting a starter in with the second unit so you don’t have a lot of drop-off. But he’s very good at that role so far.”
As Walton said, Clarkson has been awesome in the role. The third-year guard has led the Lakers in scoring with 13.5 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting in 19.8 minutes off of the bench, all while playing better defense than he’s ever exhibited in his career.
Preseason stats should always be taken with a grain of salt (so do with this what you will), but the Lakers have additionally outscored teams by 24.1 points per 100 possessions with Clarkson on the floor through two games in the preseason.
Clarkson may eventually end up back in the starting lineup, as I would hazard a guess this move is more to test the effectiveness of staggering Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell than any type of desperate desire to start Lou Williams.
If Clarkson remains with the reserves, however, he’s at least showing potential to lead a long-limbed and athletic second unit that could be a lot of fun to watch in the regular season.