The Los Angeles Lakers began a new chapter on Friday night.
With Kobe Bryant "expected" to be out for the remainder of the season, Lakers coach Byron Scott took the long-term step of starting rookie Jordan Clarkson at point guard. Friday night would be the first start in the rookie's short NBA career.
Scott did not stop there. He went with a new-look starting five of Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre. The coach has sacrificed Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly, as Scott dug deep to make dramatic changes.
Experimenting with a new look side against the team that epitomizes continuity promised the Lakers a loss, but the vision was long term. The rookie point guard paid back his coach by making an argument for being the Lakers' best player on the night.
Clarkson would finish with 11 points, four assists and three rebounds with only one turnover in 29 minutes. For a rookie point guard playing on the road, he played with tremendous composure. Regularly, Clarkson sped by groups of retreating Spurs and did well enough to even grab a rebound and finish at the opposite end through the whistle.
"[I]'m very happy with the way Jordan played," Scott said he let Clarkson call the plays and run the offense after game on TWC Sports Net. "He was very poised and the moment wasn't too big for him."
For the 22-year-old point guard, this night had to feel like a dream transforming into reality. Clarkson was born in San Antonio and went to High School at nearby Karen Wagner School. In his first ever NBA start, Clarkson lined up on the same court as the greatest Spur of all time, Tim Duncan, and directly opposite Tony Parker, who makes his own argument for being the greatest Spurs' point guard in history.
"I really wanted to get the win, so I could have some bragging rights when I came back home," Clarkson said after the game.
Of course, the Lakers did not win, and the final score read "Spurs 99, Lakers 85."
For every coin that falls heads and faces the sunlight, the tails' side of the coin is hidden in the darkness. Scott only had enough time for two point guards on Friday night, and when the time came, the Lakers' coach went with his hard-nosed veteran over his offensively gifted 26-year-old. Ronnie Price played with the second unit, and Jeremy Lin did not get off the bench.
"I thought I'd give Ronnie more of a look tonight, and I know what Jeremy can do," Scott said when asked about choosing between the two backup point guards. "The next game, it might be different."
For Lin, he had played in every single game this season, but his streak ended at 43.
For his part, Price finished with six assists, which was a game-high. Price's production helped illustrate the difficult bind Scott was in with choosing between Price and Lin. At the moment, one would expect Scott will stay with a similar lineup, although Tarik Black's return should change up the frontcourt. Sacre expects to go to the bench when that happens.
Going back to Friday night, Nick Young also continued to regain his shooting touch, as he tied for game-high honors with 17 points. Young hit a trio of three-pointers and shot a high percentage from the field.
Next, the Lakers host the Houston Rockets, and Clarkson expects to start at Staples Center for the first time on Sunday evening.