LOS ANGELES >> Their qualities mirrored each other as they paired together.
Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson could score in bunches. They looked to attack the basket. They never fretted over missed shots.
As much as the two often said their qualities complemented each other, Williams benefitted from the pairing more than Clarkson. While Williams took more of the shots with efficiency, Clarkson forced plenty of his with mixed results. But with the Lakers trading Williams last week to the Houston Rockets for small forward Corey Brewer and a first-round pick, Clarkson appears more empowered.
“With Lou gone, a lot of stuff is going to be run through me,” Clarkson said. “Just trying to make plays for my teammates. At the same time, scoring the ball when I have a chance.”
Through the small sample size, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Clarkson has done “a good job” in adapting to his bigger role. Clarkson entered Tuesday’s game against Charlotte at Staples Center averaging more points (16.5) than his season average (13.9) in two games since Williams’ departure. Clarkson’s assist numbers have also gone up from 2.1 to 3.5.
“Jordan has done a nice job of being aggressive to score and also trusting his teammates,” Walton said. “He knows the coaching staff wants to see him be a playmaker.”
Walton has often talked with Clarkson about that responsibility, including showing film of the last 10 games of his rookie season when he averaged 19.9 points on 49 percent shooting and seven assists. Yet, Walton contended Clarkson often tried to blend his scoring and passing without accounting for defensive coverages. “I just try not to force stuff, knowing the ball is going to come back,” Clarkson said. “I’m trying to look for my teammates, trying to make plays and when the shots come, just take them.”
Dream come true
As he sat on the Lakers’ bench during pre-game warmups, newly signed guard David Nwaba received advice from Walton that had nothing to do with X’s and O’s.
Instead, Walton addressed Nwaba’s life-long dream to play for the Lakers after idolizing Kobe Bryant and starring at Los Angeles University High and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
“I told him to really enjoy it and embrace it.,” said Walton, who played for the Lakers from 2003 to 2012. Once it’s all outside of your mind, it’s about playing basketball, competing and doing well.”
The Lakers signed the undrafted guard to a 10-day contract after averaging 13.9 points on 64.5 percent shooting and seven rebounds in 29 minutes in 38 games with their Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders.
“I was shocked and very happy,” Nwaba said. “It’s pretty crazy growing up a Lakers fan and dreaming about this day and it’s finally happening. It’s a great feeling.”
The Lakers signed Nwaba both for evaluation purposes and to improve their defense after ranking nearly last in the NBA in several statistical categories.
“As we continue to try to be a more defensive oriented team as far as growth, I think it’s important we get defensive minded people,” Walton said. “He’s the type of the guy that can help us build an identity where we want to play defense.”
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