When was the last time you saw Lebron celebrating a good play like he was one of the bench warmers?
I know two games is a small sample size, but Clarkson, Nance and Hood make the Cavs bench a monster weapon, outscoring their opponents a combined 103–61. It would have been worse, but they took their foot off the pedal during the extended garbage time at Boston.
I know you’re not a fan of Clarkson. I’ve been critical of his ball-stopping iso plays and his sometimes questionable defense (BTW, his DefRtg is 103.9, compared to Wade at 105.9 and Rose at 113.0). But I think it’s pretty clear that players can be deeply affected by their teammates.
Clarkson has been trying to be an alpha-dog on a young Laker team without stars (I don’t count the corpse of Kobe Bryant as a source of inspiration or leadership), so he is forced to make tough reads on every play. When he plays with Lebron, he runs to a spot and shoots, or penetrates and dishes to Lebron for a dunk. He’s not worried about getting pulled from the game because he makes a mistake. And he’s no longer worried about getting traded.
It’s ironic that during the Lakers’ last 4-game winning streak, Clarkson averaged 34 min, 25.7 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast, shooting 57.1%. It showed all the promise that has frustrated Lakers fans for four years.
I’ve been writing for the last two years that the Lakers are one star away from being a good team. The star becomes the go-to guy, and everyone else figures out and accepts their role on the team.
At Cleveland, with Lebron setting him up and teaching him how to play his role, Clarkson is shooting 61.3%. I’m not suggesting he will play like this for the rest of the season, but playing with a superstar might help him turn the corner.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Clarkson wins 6th Man of the Year. He was already close as a Laker, but playing on a wining team will probably give him the boost he needs.
Cleveland looks like a shoo-in to win the East again. I don’t think they can beat the Warriors if the Warriors play well, but this team has been completely re-energized.