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April 19, 2021 | 11:00 am EDT Update

Jordan Clarkson: 'This is that time and that moment where I've impacted the game'

Just like when both Bryant and James won five NBA titles, Clarkson’s main source of motivation points toward collecting championship hardware. Unlike when Bryant and James both won Finals and regular-season MVP awards, Clarkson’s other source of motivation points toward becoming the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. “If we’re winning games and we’re doing that, I’ll be rewarded for that,” Clarkson told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel like this is that time and that moment where I’ve impacted the game.”
“If the Sixth Man of the Year award comes and I don’t get it, I don’t need the validation because my teammates, coaching staff and a lot of my peers gave me that,” Clarkson said. “They’re telling me, ‘I respect what you do’ and all of that. So, I know that goes a long way as well. But it’s definitely something I want to get accomplished one of these years. Hopefully it’s this year.”
So after a regular-season loss in Portland, Bryant chewed out his younger teammates over their attitude, work habits and decision making. “I remember him just really getting upset,” Clarkson said. “You’ve seen him come out of his skin and grill us a little bit. But from that point on, I felt all of us had a different look at everything with what we wanted to do. That’s probably, in terms of development, a little wake-up call.”

Aaron Gordon on being traded: 'I didn’t know if everybody was pushing in the same direction'

“It was difficult, yes, because I would have loved to have stayed with a healthy Markelle (Fultz), and a healthy Jonathan Isaac and a newly blossoming Mo Bamba and a healthy Cole Anthony, but I felt like there was just something telling me I needed to shake things up. It kind of felt like I had one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake out in Orlando. “I was giving it my all, you know? I was giving it my all, and it was difficult, man. I didn’t know if everybody was pushing in the same direction.”
Organizationally, I asked? “Yeah, organizationally, in terms of the plan,” Gordon continued. “I think (Magic front office executives) John Hammond, Jeff Weltman, those guys are amazing people — amazing people, and very talented managers as well. But I feel like they got kind of cast into the revolving door out there as well in Orlando. So many coaches — five coaches in seven years (Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego, Scott Skiles, Frank Vogel and Steve Clifford). And it was kind of a different organization after the passing of Mr. (Rich) DeVos (in September 2018) as well. It was just a lot. A lot of uncertainty, an insecure kind of feeling. But I have no doubt in my mind that John and Jeff are going to get that organization back to where it needs to be.
“This year, we have high, high aspirations — championship aspirations,” Gordon, who clearly didn’t get the memo about those hopes no longer being on the table, told The Athletic. “We still feel like we have enough, especially with ‘Joker’ man. When you’ve got that guy on the floor, you have a chance to win every single night. So everybody’s got to step up, everybody has to play their best. But if we’re doing that, then I feel like we have a good chance to go as far as we want to.”
“He’s a genius, man,” Gordon said of Jokic, who is on track to become just the second player in league history to average at least 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists per game (Oscar Robertson is the other, and he did it just once). “He’s a basketball genius. That’s really what it comes down to. He’s playing it like it’s chess, seeing it three steps ahead. “I’m starting to learn that you’ve always got to keep your eye on him when he has the ball because he’ll find you. He’ll find you. Even if you don’t think you’re open, you’re open. He’ll pass you open, which is dope. It’s just amazing to play with somebody like that who can actually pass you open and sees the game (like that), and who likes to pass and enjoys passing.”
April 19, 2021 | 10:09 am EDT Update
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