WHEN Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson was drafted 46th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014 NBA draft, he viewed the situation as a “time to prove myself."
Writing as a contributor for the Player’s Tribune, the 23-year old Clarkson shared some candid insights into his first year as a pro in piece titled “My Rookie Year”.
After being selected in the second round by the Lakers out of Missouri, Clarkson had a chip on his shoulder for being drafted so low and used it as motivation. He surprised his critics when his performance earned him a spot in the NBA All-Rookie First Team after proving to be one of the few bright spots in the Lakers’ dismal season.
“If I could speak to the rookies who were just drafted — that was me a year ago — I’d tell them to have an open mind. Don’t let other people’s perceptions affect you too much. You’re a work in progress, not a finished product. There will be inevitable lows. Don’t let those become what you’re known for. It will be your reactions and ability to adjust that will define how successful your rookie campaign is,” Clarkson wrote.
Now leading the Lakers’ summer squad, he recounted his first summer league game where superstar teammate Kobe Bryant gave him a version of an on-court introduction to the NBA.
“The first possession, he caught the rock along the baseline and hit a turnaround jumper in my face … a shot I’ve seen him hit literally a thousand times on TV,” Clarkson recalled.
As if guarding Kobe throughout training camp was not hard enough, part of Clarkson’s rookie hazing included having to “lug around a fake baby doll in a pink stroller” every time he arrived at and left the Staples Center.
From a Christmas Day game against the Chicago Bulls where he missed a wide-open layup (“the most embarrassing moment of my NBA career thus far,” he said), Clarkson gradually improved his play as the season drew on.
There were trying times. Relegated to the D-League, the young guard was not deterred, using the stint as “an opportunity to improve."
Being around one of basketball’s fiercest competitors probably helped him.
“There aren’t too many guys who get an opportunity to sit down, talk to Kobe and actually pick his brain, but I was afforded this privilege. It was an incredible learning experience for me, to say the least. For all the stories you hear about Kobe talking trash and demanding a lot from his teammates, on many occasions he’s picked us up, too. He leads by example; however, you don’t hear about that much in the media.”
Despite the tough season, Clarkson said the Laker locker room did not have any of the discord that troubled other teams and talked about bonds players forge with one another, noting Nick Young and Carlos Boozer took him under their wings.