With Lonzo Ball out of the Los Angeles Lakers lineup until at least Friday with a shoulder injury, the team has been forced to turn to Jordan Clarkson to start at point guard, a change he said hasn’t been easy.
“I’m used to coming off the bench and scoring quick, getting them up quick, and when you’re playing at point and you’re playing that many minutes, you’ve gotta pick your spots,” Clarkson told Lakers Nation after a 109-99 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “It’s pretty difficult.”
Clarkson’s numbers have been mixed since the change. The fourth-year guard is averaging 19.5 points per game over the team’s last two contests, an improvement over his season-long 14.3 scoring average.
However, Clarkson has shot just 36.6 percent from the field while taking eight more shots to do so, something head coach Luke Walton said was partially attributable to Clarkson having to focus more on scoring with Ingram out of the lineup on Christmas.
“It’s always a fine line with facilitating and scoring, especially when you’re a natural scorer like he is. With the position he’s in right now, we definitely need him playmaking for others as well as looking to be aggressive and score some points for us,” Walton said.
Clarkson is also playing more minutes over the Lakers’ last two games than he has all season. With the 38 he played against Memphis standing as his season-high and the 35 on Christmas his third-most of any game, fatigue that led Clarkson to repeat he had to “pick his spots” more in this new role.
The upsurge in playing time hasn’t led to an increase in assists, however, as Clarkson is averaging a little more than one extra per game as a starter, hardly enough facilitation to make up for the loss of Ball’s ball-moving skills.
And while keeping the ball pinging around the floor isn’t all on Clarkson, the team results haven’t been pretty so far. Tthe Lakers have lost both games without Ball, with the defeat against Memphis looking particularly disappointing given that L.A. managed a season-low 14 assists.
That was despite the Grizzlies playing for the second night in a row and the Lakers having the prior day off.
The good news is that Ball will be re-evaluated Friday and could potentially return against the L.A. Clippers. Even if he doesn’t, though, Clarkson is committed to adjusting to the latest new role being asked of him in a Lakers career full of them, for as long as Ball is out.
“It definitely has been tough for me these last two games. The looks are different but I’m going to get it while this is going on,” Clarkson said.
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