Being a professional athlete always carries pressure, but when you add the expectations of one of your sport’s all time legends, along with the predictions of the nation’s sportsbooks, you need nerves of steel to go with natural talent. This is the scenario faced by Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson as the NBA season gathers momentum.
Not only is the 25-year-old Tampa native in the media spotlight, but he also has the unwavering gaze of team executive and NBA legend Magic Johnson to contend with. But Johnson has faith in his young protégé, and has publicly backed him to win the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. And let’s face it, Magic knows a thing or two about what it takes to be studly in the NBA (see video below).
Online Sportsbooks Have More Faith in Clarkson Than the Lakers
Of course, you could argue that Johnson is paid to say that and to instill belief in every member of the team, particularly a rising star like Clarkson, but the best U.S. online sportsbooks also believe that Clarkson could win the award. Side wagers such as these have become hugely popular in the modern online betting age, and U.S. online sportsbooks accept thousands of dollars in bets every year.
Johnson’s words have already seen most of the U.S. online sportsbooks slash the odds of Clarkson clinching the award, although they are more circumspect about the actual team’s prospects of success this season.
There will be plenty riding on the upcoming matchup against the rival Clippers on Friday. Most have the Clippers as warm favourites, but some favour the Lakers, and clearly, they are finding it too tight to call.
Longer term, nobody can see past the Golden State Warriors for the Pacific Division title, and they are odds on to go all the way and win the NBA. The Lakers are clearly not ready to threaten that, with some bookmakers quoting them as long as 200-to-1.
About Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson’s NBA career got off to an inauspicious start. Selected with the 46th pick in the 2014 draft by the Washington Wizards, he was immediately traded to the Lakers, where he saw little action until the latter part of the 2014-15 season. By March, however, he was making up for lost time, while also making history with Jeremy Lin to form the first Asian-American starting backcourt in NBA history.
In 2015-16, Clarkson became a full-time starter, and wound up sinking more buckets, leading to a career-best 15.5 PPG. He also did a better job on the glass. Last season, he played in every game for the first time, but mostly came off the bench. Clarkson’s shooting touch bounced back somewhat, but he didn’t do as good a job of getting to the line and his rebounding dipped.
Still, last year the Lakers demonstrated their faith in Clarkson and the role he is expected to play in their future when they agreed to a US$50 million contract to retain his services until 2020.
Finding his Place
Despite his great start, his multi million dollar contract and the backing of Johnson, it is important to remember that Clarkson is still a young man finding his place on the team.
Coach Luke Walton is not afraid to experiment in order to get the best out of his young star. Walton was impressed by the way Clarkson reacted to being asked to play out of his usual comfort zone, even when things did not quite go as planned. Walton said: “His attitude has been great. His effort coming in every day at practice has been great, it’s just new.”
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what kind of season you’re expecting out of Clarkson, and whether he’s a potential Sixth Man of the Year winner.