Lakers Host Rockets: Can Clarkson Deliver Encore?

The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets meet on Sunday night, and the Lakers provide a couple fresh faces to keep an eye on.

While Kobe Bryant awaits a serious conversation with the top surgeon in the world on Monday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers play their second game after news broke that the Lakers expect Bryant to miss the remainder of the season.

On Sunday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers will face the Houston Rockets. Last seen with a walking boot on his injured ankle, Dwight Howard does not expect to be on the court Sunday night. There's no Bryant and no Howard for the Rockets and Lakers, so what's the story?

Lakers rookie Tarik Black is in line to return for the LA Lakers against the team that waived him earlier this season. Black, who is recovering from a sprained ankle, was an undrafted rookie who signed with the Rockets. The Lakers picked him up off waivers when the Rockets decided to sign Josh Smith.

At Sunday morning shootaround, Lakers coach Byron Scott sounded less than confident that he would use Black. However, the coach confirmed that he would stick with the same lineup he used in San Antonio -- Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre -- for approximately the next 15 games.

Jordan Clarkson, who is another Lakers rookie, made his first career start on Friday in the Lakers' 99-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. In his hometown, Clarkson scored 11 points, tabbed three rebounds and recorded four assists in 29 minutes.

A couple weeks earlier, the rookie saw time in the blowout loss to the LA Clippers and finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. With only a handful of opportunities to play, Clarkson is a long way from being a polished NBA player.

Expected to see significant time for the first time in his young career, the rookie point guard should quickly topple his current career-highs of 14 points, four assists and four rebounds. Tall for a point guard at 6 feet, 5 inches, Clarkson has potential to be a good rebounder, too.

Naturally speaking, Clarkson is a scoring guard with elite natural athleticism and speed. The 22-year-old ranks sixth in the NBA with an average speed of 4.6 miles per hour, and he talked about consciously using three different speeds during the game.

Slowing Clarkson down has been the early challenge, but in his first start, the point guard stayed in control and only committed one turnover. Scott said he allowed the rookie to call plays in the first quarter and run the offense, and the Lakers' coach sounded encouraged with what he had seen in San Antonio.

On Sunday night, Bryant and Howard may not be on the court, but Clarkson provides the Lakers with a fresh faces and a new hope. Now, if only Julius Randle was healthy.

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