Clarke Hopes To Stick After 10-Day Deals
TORONTO – Guys on 10-day contracts don’t usually get an opportunity to show their stuff on the court with playoff-bound teams during NBA games in mid-March.
Coty Clarke, however, may very well find himself playing meaningful minutes off the bench for the Celtics this weekend. With Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko sidelined, and Kelly Olynyk still shaking off a bad shoulder, the Celtics need help in the frontcourt.
“He very well could get on the floor. He’s got to be ready to play at all times,” coach Brad Stevens said. “The other night he came to me and said, ‘Am I dressing?,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, and expect to play.’ That’s kind of where we are.”
Stevens added, “Jonas’ injury puts even more of a premium on a guy like that."
Clarke played three minutes against Indiana Tuesday night, knocking down his only shot, a corner 3, in the process. And he passed up another shot that he knew he should have taken. He technically logged two seconds against the Thunder on Wednesday in Boston. So far, his opportunities have been predictably limited, but Clarke is determined to make an impression and earn his keep – literally – with the Celtics for the rest of the season.
Clarke signed his first 10-day contract with the Celtics on March 6, and signed his second 10-day today. Once this deal expires, the team has to either sign him for the remainder of the season, or let him go.
“I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing, continue to do what got me here, keep my faith, stay the course, and let everything play out,” Clarke said before Friday’s shootaround at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. “I want to be here. And hopefully I’m here.”
Stevens has said repeatedly that he values versatility. Clarke hopes to provide just that, especially at a time where the Celtics find themselves a little banged up and short-handed in their regular rotation. Clarke said he found out Thursday morning he’d be signing his second 10-day deal, and a few hours later he was on the team plane to Toronto.
If you don’t know much about Clarke, we’ll forgive you. Clarke’s professional basketball career to this point has largely flown under the radar. Undrafted in 2014, Clarke ended up playing in the second tier league in Israel (averaging just under 20 points and 10 rebounds a game). Celtics scout Dave Lewin saw some of his games on tape, earning him a training camp invite with the Celtics this fall. Clarke lasted until Oct. 20, 2015, when he was waived along with Levi Randloph and Malcolm Miller.
Clarke was snatched up by the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate, on Oct. 31. He appeared in 40 games for the Red Claws this season, averaging 16.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists, not to mention 1.2 steals a game. After David Lee was waived following the trade deadline, the Celtics found themselves with an extra roster spot.
The challenge for Stevens will be evaluating Clarke during the limited time he gets between practice and any game action he may log. So how do you assess Clarke's progress if you’re the coach?
“You hope to watch his highlights from Maine and his game tape from Maine. There’s the three minutes that you saw from him in Indiana,” Stevens said. “Other than that, it’s limited practice time and how he competes in three-on-three and four-on-four situations.”
The good news for Stevens, something the coach called “huge,” is that Clarke was here for training camp, and has been playing for a Red Claws team that runs largely the same system in Maine that the Celtics operate in Boston and Waltham. So Clarke was about as prepared as he possibly could have been when he joined the team a few weeks ago. Now it’s on Clarke to do whatever he can to stick around.
“It’s about staying mentally tough and preparing every day. Everything will take its course. You can’t rush your time,” Clarke said. “I know the things they expect of me and that they need.”