Jordan Clarkson was finishing up a morning workout Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, California, when he saw Mitch Kupchak heading toward him.
The Lakers’ general manager had come to tell his rookie point guard some very good news.
Clarkson, the 46th overall selection in the 2014 draft, had been named to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team, as voted by members of the media.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but I’ve got to put it behind me,” Clarkson said by phone.
Clarkson joined Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins, Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel and Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton on the All-Rookie first team. Clarkson received 74 first-place votes and 52 second-place votes, which placed him fifth overall.
He became just the 11th Laker named to the All-Rookie first team and the first since guard Eddie Jones in 1995. Other Lakers to earn that honor: Vlade Divac, Byron Scott, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon, Brian Winters, Jim Price, Dick Garrett, Bill Hewitt and the 1958-59 rookie of the year, Elgin Baylor.
Clarkson is also the only member of this year’s All-Rookie first team who was selected in the second round.
After sitting on the bench for much of the Lakers’ season, before injuries thrust him into the starting lineup, the University of Missouri product showcased his talents. In 38 games as a starter, many of them at point guard, he averaged 15.8 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting, with 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
He had several memorable outings, such as finishing with 26 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and three steals in a March 30 win at Philadelphia. He scored a career-high 30 points on March 24 against Oklahoma City, which made him the first Lakers rookie since Jones to score at least 30 points in a game.
Clarkson also become the first Laker to win Western Conference rookie of the month after he averaged 15.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in March.
For the season, he ranked second among rookies in points per game (11.9), third in assists per game (3.6) and free throw percentage (.829), fourth in field-goal percentage (.448) and 13th in rebounds per game (3.2).
At no point during his impressive run, Clarkson said, did he think he would receive any honors for his play.
“It wasn’t on my mind,” he said. “I was just playing and trying to get better.”
Clarkson, who is on a non-guaranteed deal next season, carries a large chip on his shoulder after falling to the second round of the draft. The Lakers acquired him after buying the pick from the Washington Wizards for $1.8 million.
In fact, Clarkson can name all the point guards and combo guards taken before him in the draft -- in order. Their names are etched into his memory as motivation.
His latest honor? It’s nice, but he has much bigger goals.
“I’ve got to come back again next year and put a whole year together,” he said. “I still have a lot to prove. I’ve got to keep working. I’m not satisfied. I’m still grinding and working hard, just like everybody else.”