The Los Angeles Lakers finally got their first win without Lonzo Ball on Friday night, defeating the Indiana Pacers, 99-86. In spite of a historically bad free throw shooting night, the Lakers came out victorious thanks to excellent defense and an offense sparked by Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson, who had been in a bit of a slump, finished with a season-high 33 points, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Depending on your feelings on Clarkson, some would say he increased his trade value with the performance while others would say he proved why the Lakers should keep him.
Regardless, trade rumors surrounding the fourth-year guard have been constant all season. And they’re something head coach Luke Walton has attempted to help Clarkson through. “I try to talk to him a lot,” Walton said.
“Coach Mermuys is really close with him, so the two of them are always talking about it. The message is always the same: ‘You can’t control it. If you get traded, you get traded. We don’t coach as if you’re not going to be here. This is our group and this is who we try to coach.’
“It’s not always easy, but he’s continued, even with a little bit of a shooting slump that he’s been in, he keeps coming and getting shots up with coach Mermuys. Had a huge Dallas game for us, obviously, and [Friday] we don’t win that game without the way he played.”
For his part, Clarkson has remained indifferent about the rumors and claimed he isn’t motivated by them. “No, to be honest with you. If I’m here, I’m going to help them win games. If I’m not, it is what it is,” Clarkson said.
No one can be sure whether Clarkson will remain with the Lakers beyond the Feb. 8 trade deadline, but he is certainly showing that he has value in this league.
Walton and his coaching staff are doing as much as they can to help him out through this time and on this night it paid off.
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