LOS ANGELES -- Jordan Clarkson has stated his desire to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as a restricted free agent this offseason, but now that the team has brought in new head coach Luke Walton -- and a more up-tempo style of play -- he’s doubling down on his resolution.
“It really impacts it a lot,” Clarkson told ESPN.com on Friday in a phone interview when asked about how the hiring affects his free-agency decision. “That style of play fits me, as well as the other guys. I definitely want to stay here in L.A. and be here. I said in my exit interview, I don’t want to be that guy who bounces around from team to team.
“I want to be here in L.A. -- a place where I can call home -- and leave a legacy. The hiring makes it even better.”
Part of what makes Walton so appealing to Clarkson is his age (36) and personality, both of which suggest Walton will be vital to the team’s internal growth and development among its younger players.
“It’s just an understanding,” Clarkson, 23, said. “He’s played the game, and he’s been out here in L.A. I feel like he’ll just be able to relate to us on different levels and make us all closer and want to compete.
“I think everybody's really excited to have a young coach and a guy who believes in us. Just that style of play. It’s just an exciting time. We text all the time. I talk to Julius [Randle] a lot, D'Angelo [Russell], Larry [Nance Jr.] is back at the facility working out right now.
“It’s just cool to feel that vibe of energy.”
Clarkson, who made $845,000 last season, is in line for a hefty payday this summer.
Since he has only been in the league for two seasons, Clarkson falls under the “Gilbert Arenas provision,” meaning teams can only offer the midlevel exception for the first two years and then backload the third year (like what happened to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik with the Houston Rockets).
According to ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton, that means the max Clarkson can receive from another team this offseason would be a three-year, $34 million deal or a four-year, $58 million deal.
Of course, the Lakers hold all of the power this summer because they have the right to match any contract he signs within three days, and Clarkson believes the franchise -- and Walton -- views him as a long-term asset.
Clarkson and Walton have already discussed next season, despite Clarkson’s uncertain contract status, which gives Clarkson optimism that he’ll be back.
“It went really well,” Clarkson said. “He told me about his style of play and how he really wants the young core to really bond together. Mostly, it was about how he wants to play and how he sees us, along with the future of the franchise.”
Besides working on his game, learning Walton’s offensive principles and developing better camaraderie with his teammates, Clarkson is promoting his Nike JC6 Youth Basketball Camp, which runs from June 6-9 in Corona, California. Clarkson attended a community service event with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at 95th Street Elementary School on Friday.
Last season, Clarkson played and started in 79 games for the Lakers, averaging 15.5 points on 43.3 percent shooting, to go along with 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 32.3 minutes. He showed solid growth, primarily on the offensive end, while improving his 3-point shooting to a respectable 34.7 percent.
He’s a valuable asset that the Lakers will likely consider retaining.
Overall, Clarkson views the natural growth and maturation of the franchise’s young core, coupled with Walton’s sensibilities and vision, as reason for considerable enticement in Los Angeles.
“I’m really excited about him being the new head coach and really seeing how things are put together,” Clarkson said of Walton. “I want to be in L.A. and be a part of this whole process. I think it’s an exciting time for Laker Nation.”