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‘One of the greatest humans I’ve ever been around’: Jordan Clarkson starting to thrive again

Deseret News logo Deseret News 8/7/2020 Ryan McDonald
Jordan Clarkson standing next to a body of water: Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson reacts to a 3-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. © Kevin C. Cox, Associated Press Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson reacts to a 3-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

SALT LAKE CITY — At one point during Thursday’s game between the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs in Orlando, Florida, Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson felt like he was playing a little bit too fast, a little bit too aggressive.

Perhaps that admission can be seen as a significant one from Clarkson, who is known for always trying to look for his own shot — sometimes too selfishly so — but he did have a bigger responsibility on his shoulders against the Spurs than he typically does, and he was feeling the burden.

“JC will be forever be one of my favorite teammates ever.” — Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles

With the Jazz playing minus every starter except Joe Ingles, Clarkson became really the sole player who was capable of creating offense. There was no Donovan Mitchell or Mike Conley to lighten the load.

“I definitely was trying to be a little bit more aggressive, make plays for my teammates, stuff like that,” he said afterward.

In that moment, Utah head coach Quin Snyder took Clarkson aside and told him to trust his teammates and trust the plays they were running. Whether that conversation was the key or not can be debated, but Clarkson wound up with 24 points on a solid 8-of-18 from the field, including 4-of-9 from behind the 3-point line.

It marked the second straight game in Orlando in which Clarkson has produced well after struggling mightily in the Jazz’s first two contests at Disney World (on Wednesday he scored 14 points against Memphis on 6-of-14 shooting after going 6-for-30 in the first two games).

What has changed over the last two games for Clarkson, who was traded to Utah last Christmastime in exchange for Dante Exum?

“Just trying to find a comfort level,” he said. “We’ve been off for a little while (before Orlando). Just coming in here and getting a feel for games, the environment, new rotations, everything. For me, it’s just trying to feel it out right now. I feel like that’s what these eight (seeding) games are really about, us finding ourselves during this time.”

While Clarkson is trying to regain a comfort level that he clearly had on the court during the two-and-a-half months between his arrival and when the NBA shut down in March, off the court, he, Snyder and his teammates are getting an opportunity to get to know each other in Orlando on a much deeper level than the grind of a more normal season allows.

“It’s been great,” he said after Thursday’s game, referring to his growing relationship with Snyder. “A lot of open dialogue, not even about basketball, about a lot of different stuff that’s going on in the world, just everything. We sit down and talk. Us being in this environment, in this bubble, made us a lot closer, especially my teammates, just everybody.”

Already known as the leader of the informal #GoodVibeTribe within Utah’s roster, Clarkson said Thursday that when he joined the Jazz, he “was kind of laid-back, quiet, didn’t really get to know any of the guys as much as I do now.”

That has changed in a big way over the last month since nobody has anywhere else to be.

“We spend a lot of time with each other, have a lot of conversations, have a lot of tough conversations, personal conversations, everything, so just really bringing everybody closer,” he said. “My relationship with coach is becoming very open and we’re always exchanging dialogue, so it’s becoming great.”

Earlier this week, Utah forward Joe Ingles said during an episode of the “Ingles Insight” podcast with his wife, Renae, and team reporter Aaron Falk that getting to know Clarkson better has been one of the highlights of the bubble experience so far.

“Me and JC, Jordan Clarkson, get along really well anyway, but being with him like every day, which I probably never thought I would really do, he’s probably one of the greatest humans I’ve ever been around,” Ingles said. “JC will be forever be one of my favorite teammates ever.”

Falk echoed those sentiments.

“Not knowing him very well, obviously a new addition to the team, but to see the way that he can interact with it feels like everybody, and he’s so genuine that you’re disarmed and he can have I think probably difficult conversations in a pretty breezy way and say things and make people understand them, not everyone can have that power,” Falk said. “I would put it on that he’s a pretty important addition to the locker room, not even just on the court.”

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