Rookie Jordan Clarkson is bright spot in brutal Lakers season

Rookie Jordan Clarkson is bright spot in brutal Lakers season
Heat guard Dwyane Wade drives to the basket against Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson during a game Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (Joel Auerbach / Associated Press)

Jordan Clarkson exhales loudly.

He's in front of his locker in another arena where the Lakers have lost another game, this time in Miami on Wednesday.


It was a close one. The Lakers' rookie point guard had a chance to tie the score with a three-point shot and 16.9 seconds left on the clock. He missed.

It made him unhappy afterward. Or maybe it was just all the losing by the Lakers, sitting ever unsteadily with a 16-44 record.

"Heck yeah," he said quietly, the typically humble rookie barely looking up at the people surrounding him.

The team's 4-13 record with Clarkson as a starter is hardly his fault. At this point, the 46th overall draft pick is the Lakers' main, if not lone, bright spot.

"They got their pick right," said an NBA front office executive who requested anonymity.

Actually, it wasn't theirs at first. The Lakers had already lost their second-round selection to Phoenix as part of the Steve Nash trade. But the Lakers were able to buy their way into the late part of the draft, giving the Washington Wizards $1.8 million for their spot and happily taking Clarkson after his junior year at Missouri.

He averaged 13.8 points and four assists last month while shooting a commendable 47.7%, and he's starting to take important shots through three games in March, including the late attempt in Miami.

"It took guts to take the shot. I give him credit for that," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "But I thought he probably could have gotten a better shot. Dwyane [Wade] went under the screen so he had a pretty good look at it."

Clarkson had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists, though he also had four turnovers and made only three of 11 shots in the 100-94 loss.

The Lakers love his defense and his quickness. They just want him to convert from a point guard who shot a lot in college to a point guard who passes a little more in the pros.

They're patient about it. Friday will bring another game against another top point guard, Mike Conley of Memphis.

Despite the Grizzles' superior record (43-17), the Lakers have had three close games against them, losing by five, six and three points this season.

Maybe Clarkson will get another chance at a clutch shot. You get the feeling it will happen again soon, perhaps with a different outcome.



When: 5 PST.

Where: FedEx Forum.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 16-44; Grizzlies 43-17.

Record vs. Grizzlies: 0-3.

Update: Memphis remains in second place in the Western Conference but has been barely average lately, winning six of its last 11 games. The Lakers have been swept by the Grizzlies in the season series only once since Memphis began play in 1995-96, going 0-3 in 2004-05.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan