Rookie Tales ... with Jordan Clarkson

As the Cavs Take on the Lakers, Clarkson Looks Back on His Freshman Campaign
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor


Rookie Tales ... with Jordan Clarkson

As the Cavs Take On the Lakers, Clarkson Looks Back on His Freshman Campaign


You have to hand it to the Lakers: they’ve succeed at finding Draft night diamonds in the rough over the past few years. But right now, two of those hidden gems are currently wearing the Wine & Gold.

Jordan Clarkson was dealt to the Cavaliers (along with Larry Nance Jr.) when the Wine & Gold pulled off a trio of Deadline deals that completely reshaped the roster. And after spending the first three-and-a-half years in Tinseltown, the lithe combo-guard hasn’t missed a beat with his new squad.

This season, Clarkson is the league’s second-leading scorer off the bench – at 14.2 ppg – and has notched double-figures in nine of his first 11 games with Cleveland, including a 21-point effort in Friday night’s loss at STAPLES Center.

Clarkson got his start with the Lakers back in 2014 – taken with the 46th overall pick out of Missouri by the Wizards and shipped to Los Angeles shortly thereafter for cash considerations.

After a slow start to his freshman season in L.A. – bouncing back and forth between the bigs and the G League affiliate in Bakersfield – Clarkson went on to start 38 games for the Lakers, averaging 15.8 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.2 boards. His strong finish earned him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team – a rarity for a second-round selection.

As he and the Cavaliers prepare to square off against his old squad on Sunday night, Cavs.com sat down with Clarkson to talk about the early days of his career in today’s installment of Rookie Tales

A young Jordan Clarkson takes flight in LakerLand.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images


Only four second round picks had ever made the All-Rookie First Team when you did it in 2015. What did that honor mean to you?

Jordan Clarkson: It meant a lot. I went from the D-League to not playing to starting all in, like, a matter of a month. It just showed my progression and how I worked on my game through the D-League and through just training and working.

At what point during your first season did you realize that you could make your mark in the league?

Clarkson: I’d say just in the last two months of my rookie season. I had a strong second half -- and I feel like that's what got me where I am today.

When Byron Scott was in Cleveland, he was notoriously tough on rookies. What was he like with you in L.A.?

Clarkson: He was definitely tough. But he gave me the opportunity and he worked with me.

In those last couple months, he just wanted to see me see me grow as a player, so it was definitely cool to have him do that.

But he was always on me too! It wasn't like I was just running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

"I wouldn't say he was as tough on me as he was on a lot of guys in terms of vocally. But he was always talking to me."

Jordan Clarkson on his early relationship with Kobe Bryant

Did coming into that year with a high-profile first rounder like Julius Randle take some of the pressure off you?

Clarkson: Not really, because he didn't play his rookie season. So, a lot of that time in my rookie year was spent by myself.

But coming in with Julius was a lot of help because I've known Julius since the 8th grade. It was easy for me to kind of get used to everything here (in L.A.) but it was definitely cool to have him here.

So, no culture shock starting out here in Southern California?

Clarkson: No, not really, to be honest. It’s definitely nice weather here; it's definitely a good life.

What was your experience like as a young rookie dealing with Kobe Bryant?

Clarkson: It was crazy, just having that experience – talking with him, getting up shots in the morning, things like that.

But it was definitely cool to see how he worked and how he was wired differently than most guys. I wouldn't say he was as tough on me as he was on a lot of guys in terms of vocally. But he was always talking to me -- about anything, really.

Which veteran was toughest on you and which veteran took you under his wing?

Clarkson: (Laughs) Kobe was both.

Seriously though, I’d say Nick Young, in terms of his family.

Him and his family really took me under their wing. So, it was definitely cool to have him here, too. He was almost like a big brother to me at the time -- being here in the city, getting situated. His entire family, everybody got me situated here. It helped me a lot.

And Kobe was probably the toughest on me. But he pushed me, and that was good.

Any rookie initiations that first year? Donuts? Newspapers?

Clarkson: No – I used to have to carry a baby doll to every game. Either that or a pink backpack.

I think I had a pink "Frozen" backpack or something crazy like that. So it was always one or the other: if I didn't have the backpack, I had to have the baby.

What did you go with?

Clarkson: Most of the time I picked the backpack.

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