Utah Jazz is known for its roster of great players throughout its franchise history in the NBA. They had the legendary 'Pistol Pete' or Pete Maravich, the best assist leader John Stockton, and the Mailman Karl Malone. This season, they have the 2017 almost-rookie-of-the-year Donovan Mitchell, two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson.
Filipino fans are still reeling from the frenzy of this Fil-Am’s performance, scoring a sizzling 40 points in 29 minutes off the bench against Utah's last game with Philly. The 28-year-old Clarkson had a slugfest with Philadelphia 76ers, with Utah Jazz winning the bout, and the Jazz winning streak extending to eight. Overall, they played an impeccable game, led by their man off the bench, Clarkson.
The performance was significant on different levels.
First off, one cannot imagine the sense of pride it brings to Filipino sports fans for this kababayan to score 40 points in an NBA game. Aren’t we all still euphoric from his stint in Gilas Pilipinas? I can still remember how Pinoys went ballistic in 2018 when the NBA cleared Clarkson to play for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games. We got a 5th place finish, our best in 16 years with Clarkson's help.
Next, he earned the respect of his team. The team embraced him. Star guard Mitchell even playfully poured water on Clarkson because the latter played a sizzling hot 40-point game and Mitchell wanted to ‘cool him off’. “I tried to run from Don,” Clarkson said. “I’ve got to keep these braids in my hair for this road trip. So, I was trying to get out of the way a little bit. He still got me.”
It’s hard not to see how Clarkson fits nicely in the Utah Jazz offense. The Lakers team was so loaded with talent, he could not find the minutes. At Cleveland, his presence proved a mismatch, not only with the team but its coaching system. He also could not get his minutes during the playoffs. Utah Coach Quin Snyder took him under his wing and Clarkson is clearly getting the playing time he needs in a system seemingly designed for him.
“I believe in him,” said Snyder. “His teammates believe in him. He’s confident to begin with, but I think that takes him to a really good place mentally. He’s not bashful, and we don’t want him to be.”
Clarkson's stats this season have increased significantly. Stats freaks playing NBA Fantasy basketball with Clarkson on their team are most likely jumping for joy.
“I’m just shooting the shots that are available and they’re going in,” Clarkson said. “I’m coming into the game and being aggressive. That never changes if we’re up by 20 or down by 15. I think my role is kind of who I am.”
A side note: it was also a battle of the exes at the games. Clarkson and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons both used to be romantically involved with Supermodel Kendall Jenner. But it’s Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker who now apparently owns the heart of the popular 25-year-old.
Clarkson has been humming on all cylinders for his second season for the Jazz, blazing under coach Synder's coaching. He is one of the top options offensively off the Jazz bench and is averaging 18.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.
“Those guys always come over the bench and tell me to keep shooting it,” Clarkson said. “Even when I’m having an off night or if I’m hot, they still tell me to shoot the ball no matter what. It’s just love and I really appreciate that and I’m happy they embrace me like that.”
As of this writing, Utah boasts of one of the best records in the NBA with a two-game lead for the top spot in the Western Conference.