Lakers' Jordan Clarkson aiming 'to be my own player'

Lakers' Jordan Clarkson aiming 'to be my own player'
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, right, scores over Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis during the Lakers' loss at Staples Center on Sunday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Jordan Clarkson was the Lakers' lone bright spot this season, possibly carving out a spot on the NBA's all-rookie team while making a lot of teams regret passing him up in last year's draft.

He actually watched the draft eight to 10 times this season after a bad game, a "motivating thing," he called it Thursday, well aware he was the 46th overall pick.


He averaged 15.8 points and five assists in only 38 games as a starting point guard and, here's the funny part, wouldn't say no to playing on the Lakers' summer-league team in July.

"I'd be going out there and getting some work in with Julius and whatever guys come in," Clarkson said. "It's a cool opportunity."

During his exit meeting Thursday with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, he was told to work on leadership and putting on more muscle during the off-season. He was also asked to learn to play off the ball a little more often in case he slides over to shooting guard.

The Lakers could be in position to draft a point guard (D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay) or they might try to pursue one via free agency (Rajon Rondo or Goran Dragic, to start with).

As for the leadership part, the humble Clarkson was told to study someone from the Clippers (gasp!): Chris Paul.

He earned plenty of respect from NBA coaches in his three-month stint running the offense. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was more than impressed by his sense of pace.

"Watching him early on, he did everything fast. And then faster. And when things didn't go well, it's like he tried to go even faster and harder," Rivers said recently. "Now you can see he's got confidence. That's to me the biggest key with young players that are talented. He still plays at a great speed but he's in no hurry anymore."

To which Clarkson would say, with the knowledge of his low draft position: "I think I've proved a lot to people that had doubts and stuff like that."

Clarkson missed the season finale because of a sprained ankle that was more symbolic than serious.

"When Jordan got hurt the other day and I went in the locker room afterward, all I could really do was laugh. I just laughed and shook my head," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "This is kind of fitting of the way the season has been. The first game of the season, Julius [Randle] breaks his leg, and then the second-to-last game of the season, Jordan, our other rookie, he gets hurt."

Clarkson was a revelation this season, one of the few for the Lakers.

Teammate Carlos Boozer even called him "baby Westbrook," following the mold of Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.

"That's a great compliment," Clarkson said. "But I kind of want to be my own player."