CLEVELAND — Jordan Clarkson had something to prove with the Cavaliers this season, and he doesn’t believe he’s done yet.
Clarkson struggled during last year’s playoffs, averaging just 4.7 points and shooting .301 from the field and .239 from 3-point range in 19 games. That was well below the numbers he posted in 28 games — 12.6 points, .456 from the field, .407 from long range — after being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 8, 2018.
It was the first postseason appearance for Clarkson and he seemingly wilted under the pressure as LeBron James led the Cavs to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.
“Last year I feel like people misjudged me because I had a few bad games in the playoffs,” Clarkson said Monday after shoot-around as the Cavs prepared to host the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena. “My whole thing was just come back and kind of prove people wrong, come in aggressive and attack it like I do. Just a clear mind.
“Having a solid year in terms of individual. Definitely want to help the team win games. That was my biggest thing — being the best player I can be so I can help win games.”
Clarkson went into Monday having scored in double figures in 57 games, the second-most games among NBA reserves. He made his 500th career 3-pointer Friday at the Miami Heat. He poured in a career-high 42 points, the most by a Cav this season, on Feb. 13 against the Brooklyn Nets. His 17 points per game is his highest average in five seasons in the league.
“I’m definitely confident in what I’m doing. I’ve been coming off the bench for three years now, so I’ve kind of fallen into that role as spark plug off the bench,” Clarkson said.
During an injury-ravaged season, there were times Cavs coach Larry Drew considered starting Clarkson, but that did not happen in the 65 games Clarkson has played. Drew said he likes having a player who can “score in bunches” available if the Cavs need instant offense.
“I think he’s exceeded after his playoff performance last year,” Drew said of Clarkson. “And when he gets into the game he comes in ready, that’s the thing I really admire and respect about his ability. It’s not a thing where he has to coast into the rhythm of the game. He comes in, he’s ready to let it go.
“People throw different defenses at him, he’s responding to those defenses very well. I continue to challenge him on the other end, though. Being a scorer, you’re going to get your points, but you’ve got to get some work done on the other end.”
As for whether he’s proved the doubters wrong, Clarkson said, “I ain’t done yet, so we’ll see when everything’s all over.”
Clarkson said Drew has pushed rookie point guard Collin Sexton to talk more in practice.
“Especially being a point guard and playing out there with Kevin,” Clarkson said. “You’ve got to be vocal and kinda put everybody in their places so you can do the right things.”
Clarkson said he could tell it wasn’t easy for Sexton, 20.
“You’re young, you’re around a bunch of older guys. This is an adjustment to make … You see him kind of falling into it right now.”
Drew acknowledged that asking for constant chatter from Sexton “may not be in his DNA.”
“I’ve run across players before that are just quiet by nature. When I was in Atlanta I had Jeff Teague,” Drew said. “I don’t think he’s in a situation where he doesn’t want to talk, he’s just quiet, and I see a little bit of that in Collin.
“You’re trying to get these guys to understand how to be good at their position and at the point guard spot it helps if you’re vocal. You’ve got to be that extension of the coach out on the floor. I really do see improvement, particularly during the games where he’s out there talking and I’m calling a play and he may come over and say, ‘Coach, what about this?’ which is something he was not doing early in the season. But I’ll continue to harp on him.”
Love to sit Tuesday
Drew said five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love will not play Tuesday at the Philadelphia 76ers on the second night of a back-to-back. The last time the Cavs faced that situation, Love sat out on March 2 at home against the Detroit Pistons and played March 3 against the Orlando Magic.
Love underwent surgery on his left foot on Nov. 2 and the Cavs continue to handle him with caution.
“We’re still following our plan as far as bringing him back to where he’ll have the minutes restriction tag taken off of him, but still he’s not ready to go back-to-back,” Drew said.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.