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Sixth Sense

Cavaliers Reserve Jordan Clarkson Has Brought Heat Off the Bench All Season Long
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Sixth Sense

Cavaliers Reserve Jordan Clarkson Has Brought Heat
Off the Bench All Season Long

There are certain roles in sports that get a disproportionate amount of fan support. The backup quarterback. The ninth-inning closer. The sixth man.

Fans love a good sixth man because he’s got the most fun job on the floor – to enter the game ready to put points on the board. (If you disagree with that assessment, name the NBA’s last defensive-minded Sixth Man of the Year.)

This year’s Cavaliers don’t have the offensive arsenal they’ve had in the past – and points have been even harder to come by with Kevin Love on the shelf. Last year, Jordan Clarkson’s production off the bench was gravy. This year, it’s the meat and potatoes.

Clarkson hit the ground running after his arrival in Cleveland following a deadline deal with the Lakers – notching double-figures in 20 of his 28 regular season games. The combo-guard from Missouri would go on to finish second in the league in bench scoring at 13.9 ppg. But he struggled mightily in his postseason debut – averaging under five points and shooting 30 percent in Cleveland’s return to the Finals.

The fifth-year man from Missouri re-dedicated himself over the offseason and he came to Camp noticeably different. He’d obviously hit the weights, but also had plenty of fresh ink – right up to his chin.

Clarkson – whose mother is Filipino – also played a pair of games for the Philippines in the Asian Games this past summer, scoring 28 points against China and 25 in a loss to the defending champion South Koreans.

This year, Clarkson has picked up where he left off last regular season – notching double-figures in all 11 games this season. With Love on the mend, Clarkson’s 15.2 ppg average tops the the team and is good for fourth in the NBA. In Wednesday’s tough home loss to the Thunder, the 26-year-old nearly notched his first career triple-double: finishing with 11 points, nine boards and eight assists.

He’s been the Wine & Gold’s most electric scorer this season and he’s filling a role his squad desperately needs. He took a minute after practice to talk with about his refocused offseason, his current role with the team and his new tattoos …

Jordan Clarkson notched double-figures in 20 of his first 28 regular season games with Cleveland last year and has done so in all 11 so far this season.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Do you have a preference when it comes to staring or coming off the bench?

Jordan Clarkson: Coming off the bench is just my role. I know I could do more. I know I'm a playmaker. But my role has been bench scoring for the past three years. So I'm trying to just be really good at that.

You started 79 games for the Lakers in 2015-16 but started coming off the bench the following season. What was the reason for the change?

Clarkson: To be honest, I don't even know. They just told me: ‘We want you to be a sixth man.’

It was a whole new coaching staff, so I said 'alright'. For me, whenever I get on the floor, I'm gonna try to impact the game and just do what I do. And that's really what it came down to.

I'm really not into getting my name called (in player intros) and all that stuff, but I know I can be a starter in this league. But all that stuff is out of my control. I just control what I can control -- go out there and try to be the best I can be in the minutes I get, with the plays that are called for me.

"Just getting back to work really helped me. Just falling in love with the process: getting in the weight room, eating right, staying in the gym."

- Jordan Clarkson on re-dedicating himself over the summer.

Is there something kind of liberating (and just plain fun) about checking into the game knowing your job is to score?

Clarkson: Yeah, it is. It's just me going out there and just kind of ... creating.

Coach told me that they need me to score and that's what I'm doing. I feel like I get some slack because I get no assists, but that's kind of not my job. They're telling me we have to put points on the board.

So I'm just playing my role and doing that.

It is fun, though.

Like I said, it's about creating -- like an artist having a free canvas, going out there, creating shots, making them. I like going in there, quieting crowds or sparking energy for the team.

What did you focus on over the summer?

Clarkson: I just fell in love with the process again.

You know, after the Playoffs, that really humbled me a lot – just in terms of where my game was going and where I needed it to be.

So, it was just sitting down and taking a look at myself in the mirror – critiquing myself and blocking all the outside noise out. And just getting back to work really helped me. Just falling in love with the process: getting in the weight room, eating right, staying in the gym.

Even during Training Camp, I was in here at night. Waking up early in the morning, getting in here with D-Mill (Cavs Strength and Conditioning Coach Derek Millender).

Basically falling in love with the game again, falling in love with the process. I just wanted to re-gear myself and get back to what I'm used to.

You mentioned during Training Camp how important the Asian Games were to you over the Summer.

Clarkson: Yeah, it was definitely important for me to represent that side of my heritage and my culture. My grandma was crying every game, watching me play!

So, just being able to give back to the people, the country, and representing them has been amazing. I always feel the support and the love. I'm just trying to do my best to represent them when I'm over here as well as my family and everybody else.

Your first full season with the Cavaliers has been difficult so far. But where do you feel this team is headed?

Clarkson: I feel like we're going in the right direction. We just need to get guys on the same page -- moving the ball, not as many possessions where we're over-dribbling the ball. I have a tendency to do that sometimes.

I'm just trying to be aggressive and make plays, but you watch film and you see that you can get off the ball get it to somebody else and let them make a play for you.

And then defensively, we've been talking much more.

Guys are getting a little more comfortable and I think it's gonna start coming together.

You’ve also committed yourself to the ink this summer?

Clarkson: I just finished up my neck and got a few more things on my arms. I've still got to finish my Texas stuff on my arm.

My neck is a full thing that goes through my chest and that's what the roses are there -- the beautiful part. And then the roots where my grandma and my great-grandma are all gonna be on my chest.

But I like art. So, it's been really cool to be able to work with some of the guys, especially the guy that does all my big detail stuff. He's really cool. He's actually in Vancouver and we've gotten really close over the process. I like a lot of his work.

Looks like it was kinda painful.

Clarkson: Oh, it was.

GAME RECAP: Bucks 127, Cavaliers 105

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores 26 points, 10 rebounds to lift to Milwaukee Bucks over the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-105.

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