UTAH JAZZ

Jazz, Jordan Clarkson Already Show Glimmers Of Beautiful Relationship

Dec 31, 2019, 2:06 PM | Updated: 2:26 pm
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) claps during an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons at Vivint...
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) claps during an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. The Jazz won 104-81.
(00)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Two words can sum up why the Utah Jazz traded for Jordan Clarkson: desperation and scoring.

One word describes why Clarkson needed the Jazz: relevance.

Is it a match made in basketball heaven? The marriage seems to be going well early on.

The Jazz are 3-0 since Clarkson joined the team and a microcosm of the beautiful relationship was on full display in Utah’s 104-81 victory over Detroit.

The Pistons and Jazz were playing ugly basketball early at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The teams combined to score 20 total points with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

That’s when Clarkson entered the game, and the guy who never met a shot he didn’t like didn’t waste any time. He caught a pass, drove to the basket and hit a nice little floater.

Then with 25.9 seconds left in the quarter, Clarkson canned a 3-pointer right before the shot clock expired after great ball movement by his teammates.

Mission accomplished.

The Jazz were desperate for scoring and Clarkson provided it the first two times he touched the ball.

Every relationship has its highs and lows. Clarkson missed his next three shots and Derrick Rose beat him for a layup. He also played a passing lane perfectly on defense in the second quarter which led to a steal, and a gorgeous bounce pass to Royce O’Neale and a layup.

The highs seemed to outweigh the lows by halftime. Sure, Utah was down 40-39, but Clarkson had done his job. He scored 9 of the bench’s 11 points and the other 2 points were scored by Tony Bradley on a putback of one of Clarkson’s misses.

Clarkson’s contribution in the second half was much like the first half, with him shooting a bit more efficiently from the floor (4-6) while scoring 11 points. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 20 points. Clarkson’s game evolved as the game moved from the third to the fourth quarter.

When Clarkson re-entered the game in the second half, he was the focal part of the offense, using Rudy Gobert screens to free himself for 3-point shots. When Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles were on the floor with him the fourth quarter, he went from offensive initiator to anxious marksman in the corner with others taking on the ball-handling responsibilities.

Why the change? It could be three-fold. First, Clarkson is still trying to figure out what to do next with other ball-dominant players on the court.

“Donovan is doing a good job talking to me,” said Clarkson.  “Joe and Coach (Quin Snyder) and everyone that has been here has been telling me where to go and when plays are happening…These guys have really done a good job of opening their arms and really kind of taking me in and staying in my ear.  They are really working it.”

Second, Clarkson can have tunnel vision when he is the primary ball-handler.  The 6’4″ Missouri product doesn’t necessarily search out his teammates when he makes his moves nor does he pass much when placed in the pick and roll. That works when Clarkson is playing with Mitchell and three bench players as he can take the scoring pressure from Mitchell but when Ingles and Bogdanovic join him on the court, they need the ball, too.

Third, the sixth year guard is also valuable as a floor spacer off of the ball.

The Jazz knew they were getting a gunner when they traded for the sixth year guard. Clarkson is looking to score any time he touches the ball. Some of his decisions in upcoming games will lead to a lot of head shaking by fans and coaches but that’s okay because each side of this relationship understands their role.

That includes Clarkson’s teammates.

It means a lot to Clarkson to be part of a team with potential. It’s been two seasons since he’s played for his only team that made the playoffs. That’s another reason why Clarkson desperately needs the Jazz; to prove that he’s not a guy who only thinks of his stats or his next contract.

The Jazz didn’t trade for the perfect player, but a potentially perfect fit for their team. While the two sides are still in the honeymoon stage, it’s proving to be the optimal marriage of desperation and scoring.

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