As the NBA Draft grew closer, former Missouri point guard Jordan Clarkson’s name started popping up more frequently as a late first-round pick in mock drafts across the internet.
Watching the 2014 NBA Draft at his family’s San Antonio home Thursday, Clarkson’s anxiety grew as the first round’s final picks were made.
“It was a little bit tense during the first round, but after that my agent was just trying to find the best for me after that,” Clarkson said Friday by phone from Texas. “It’s really not about the number you picked, It’s about the fit and what’s going to be best for you. That’s what my agent was looking for.”
Clarkson didn’t wind up going in the first round despite the fact that he was a hailed as a potential sleeper and one of the draft’s most undervalued players.
Instead, he slipped to No. 46, where the Washington Wizards selected Clarkson and then traded his rights to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash considerations.
“For sure, it’s a dream destination,” Clarkson said. “I’m really excited about the situation. I couldn’t ask for anything better than going to the city of LA. I’m excited to go out there for this next step. It’s a great situation and I’ve been blessed. They’ve got a storied history and are looking to get back on track. Having this opportunity is great.”
Certainly, it was worth the wait.
“I was pretty amped and, shoot, I still am a little bit right now,” Clarkson said. “I couldn’t eat last night. There were so many things going on, but it was exciting when it happened. I was just watching and hoping to hear my name called. When I got the phone call, it was a relief and just a joy. I was real happy. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
Clarkson joins a Lakers roster in flux.
Kobe Bryant missed most of the 2013-14 season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Bryant, who is entering his 19th season, returned for six games before a left knee injury ended his season.
Bryant, who is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history, signed a four-year extension before last season and reportedly will return at full strength.
“I watched a lot of Kobe, even when I was little,” Clarkson said. “That’s going to be cool playing alongside him and getting to practice and stuff with him.”
Clarkson also said he’s excited to learn from veteran point guard Steve Nash, a two-time NBA MVP.
“Having an opportunity to play behind Nash, it’s up to me to come in and work,” Clarkson said. “Having vets like that, I’ll be able to learn from them and learn their ways. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to pick their minds.”
Clarkson also was excited to join Lakers’ first-round pick Julius Randle, who played one season at Kentucky.
“He’s a monster, so it’ll be nice to play with him instead of against him,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson said he wasn’t sure when he’d leave San Antonio for Los Angeles, but he definitely would play for the Lakers’ summer league team.
The Lakers are coming off the franchise’s worst season since moving to Los Angeles, but Clarkson hopes to be part of a return to glory in gold and purple.
“You’ve got Kobe coming back, so I think it can be turned around quick,” Clarkson said. “They’re just looking for me to come in and compete and just find my role on this team.”