INDEPENDENCE — Jordan Clarkson said he believes his body fat might be down to 5.5 percent after he gave up candy, carbs and fast food, including trips to his favorite Popeyes, and switched to drinking wine.
His body is stronger after finding a new trainer in Los Angeles, with Clarkson proclaiming this is the best he’s felt in his NBA career.
In two weeks of private work with Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, Clarkson learned much about passing in pick-and-rolls and creating space to get off his shot.
It was all part of an important summer of growth for the Cavs guard.
“This is just me, 26 years old, this is my fifth year in the league, I’ve just got to do something different,” Clarkson said Friday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I really had to look myself in the mirror and take it [upon] myself to get better and change stuff.”
Clarkson admitted his disappointing showing in the playoffs motivated him.
Averaging 12.6 points in 28 games after being traded from the Lakers on Feb. 8, Clarkson couldn’t find a way to score in the postseason. He contributed just 4.7 points and shot .239 from beyond the arc. He made 3-of-13 from the field in the first two games of the NBA Finals at Golden State and did not play in Games 3 and 4.
Watching the weaknesses that opponents exposed in the playoffs gave Clarkson plenty to concentrate on during his short offseason.
“Guys [were] being physical, pressuring the ball a lot more, not letting me run free,” he said. “A lot of guys were blitzing me, they would have high shows. Just making those reads off those pick-and-rolls, getting the ball out of my hands and learning how to make passes out of those situations, I really never have been taught that. Being able to sit down and kind of pick it all apart, it was good for me.”
Clarkson said he appreciated that Lue flew to Los Angeles to spend a week working with him. Clarkson also went to Las Vegas, Lue’s offseason base, for another week.
“It shows that he has confidence in me and he wants to see me get better,” Clarkson said. “We only had a short amount of time during the year, then we were in the playoffs, there was no time where we got to work and build a chemistry with each other. During the summer just being able to spend some time with him, talk to him, pick his mind, it was a great opportunity and experience for me.”
Lue said he doesn’t believe Clarkson lost confidence during the playoffs because he kept shooting. But during the summer, he witnessed Clarkson’s dedication to improve.
“Not really anything different, just adding to his game. We still want him to be a scorer,” Lue said Thursday. “But when guys are open, to be able to make the right play.”
Asked where he saw the most improvement, Lue said, “Setting his guys up on pick-and-rolls so he can get freer to get his shot off. The reads with bigs rolling, making different passes, he’s picked that up.”
In recent scrimmages, Tristan Thompson has seen evidence of Clarkson’s work with Lue.
“T-Lue has definitely done a good job coaching him and mentoring him,” Thompson said Thursday. “We know he can get to the mid-range jumper, that’s his sweet spot. I think the next step for Jordan is in the pick-and-roll, be able to make that second, third play — crosscourt pass to the 3 or if the big is rolling, pocket pass or the lob.”
Clarkson said he is even-keeled and tried not to let criticism of his playoff performance drag him down.
“I’m here trying to prove people wrong. I feel like people are going to judge me from one playoff series when I didn’t really play much or get much time in and it was a new experience for me. I’m coming back ready to go, my head down ready to attack it,” he said.
“It’s all learning for me. I look at all my experiences as what it’s supposed to be, it’s my life, take one step at a time. If I fall down, I’ve got to get right back up.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.