While the last few seasons have been disappointing to the Lakers, the play of second-year guard Jordan Clarkson continues to give the team hope for the future.
"He's come a long way. There's no doubt about that. But we have a high expectation of Jordan. We still think he has a long way to go," Coach Byron Scott said. "He's the type of kid to put in the work to get there."
Heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets, Clarkson had made 44.4% of his shots, highest on the team among guards. He was averaging 15.2 points per game.
"He has to be a little bit more aggressive, as far as getting to the basket," Scott said. "He has to be able hit the three-pointer, get to the basket. His mid-range game is pretty good."
Clarkson, like other Lakers, has had to adjust to Kobe Bryant's intermittent playing schedule.
"My shots come in different places every game because I'm playing, I feel like, in different spots, especially with Kobe and I'm out there with D'Angelo [Russell] as well. I'm just trying to get used to playing everywhere on the floor," Clarkson said.
Sunday was Clarkson's 41st start this season, which qualified him for the league's "starter criteria" this summer.
Clarkson will take up $2.7 million of the Lakers' salary-cap space as a restricted free agent in July before he re-signs with the team. Before Sunday, that number was $1.2 million.
The Lakers still project to have between $50 million and $60 million on salary-cap room this summer.
It's also almost a given that the Lakers will bring Clarkson back. The Lakers benefit from a rule in the collective bargaining agreement that limits the amount of money other teams can offer Clarkson.
Although Scott is hesitant to start games with the inexperienced tandem of the rookie Russell and Clarkson, his faith in the two has not wavered.
"No, not at all. But they both have a ways to go to be a great starting tandem, on both ends of the floor," Scott said.
Tarik Black is still trying to impress
Filling in for an injured Brandon Bass (foot), second-year center Tarik Black averaged six points and six rebounds in 19 minutes per game over the Lakers' last two games.
"He's been OK," Scott said. "He hasn't done anything spectacular, but he hasn't done anything that was so devastating that you say, 'Let's send him back down to the D-League.'
"I think what you guys should really do is go ask Tarik what I told him this summer. [Ask what] he needs to do to stay in this league for 10-15 years."
"He just said be a beast," Black said. "Rebound the ball, defend the ball like crazy and be aggressive."
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