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Jordan Clarkson: "I Definitely Want to Stay in LA"

Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers reiterated his desire to stay in Los Angeles

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    Jordan Clarkson: "I Definitely Want to Stay in LA"
    Getty Images for Activision
    Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson Stops By E3 To Check Out "Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare" at Los Angeles Convention Center on June 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Activision )

    "LA is like home for me, so I definitely want to be here," Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson told NBCLA.com in a conference room tucked away on the second floor of the LA Convention Center.

    Below, hundreds attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly referred to as E3. Earlier, Clarkson had taken part in a Facebook Live event where he played Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which is the newest installment of the popular video game series set to be released on Nov. 4. Due largely to the influence of teammates like Roy Hibbert, Clarkson is a fan of the series, so he jumped at the chance to play the game prior to launch and take part in the event.

    "I definitely want to stay in LA but kind of have an open mind," Clarkson opened up about the upcoming free agency process that lies ahead.

    Without getting too detailed about the nuances of Clarkson's restricted free agent status, the Lakers' most consistent player for the past two seasons could be lured away by another team but only if the Lakers chose not to match the offer sheet. LA has plenty of money to spend, so the team should be able to hold onto the San Antonio native.

    Considering the Lakers are coming off their two worst seasons in franchise history, Clarkson still has a great deal to prove. And judging by his bulging physique, Clarkson isn't taking too many days off this summer.

    "I feel like I need to get stronger for both: offensively and defensively," Clarkson says when asked why he is focusing on adding muscle in the offseason. "I played mostly (shooting guard) and (point guard) this year, so just switching between those positions and being able to guard both of those. Adding muscle and strength will be a big help to me."

    A photo posted by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

    During his exit interviews, Clarkson revealed that improving defensively would be a major focus during the offseason and that, honestly, he had never focused on defense in an offseason before.

    "A lot of it is film work," he answers how he is specifically improving his defensive game. "Figuring out where you messed up, different angles you have to take—Closing out. A lot of it comes from 1-on-1 stuff."

    The former Missouri guard says his trainer Drew Hanlen is working with him full time now that most of the trainer's work with potential draftees had concluded. Asked about where he's looking to improve, Clarkson lists just about every facet of his game: mid-range game, three-point shot, shooting off the dribble, catch and shoot situations, creating space and finishing at the basket.

    Clarkson struggled with controlling his pace in his rookie year, and the guard appeared a bit more conscious that he had fallen away from the lessons Steve Nash had focused on in special training sessions during that first year as a professional.

    Clarkson echoes words he uttered during that 2014-15 season as he ends his list of areas to improve, "A little bit more slowing down and letting reads happen, so I can make plays for my teammates."

    Of course, Clarkson's role in his second season forced him to play off the ball a great deal more because of 2015 no. 2 pick point guard D'Angelo Russell joining the team and taking over primary ball handling duties. But the offseason is a time for Clarkson to improve and work on his craft, and going into his third year, the laid back Texas kid says his current routine features getting into the gym and working from 7 am to 1 pm.

    How has Clarkson's offseason workout changed over the past two seasons?

    "It's a lot more details in terms of footwork," he says. "At the same time, you have to take your time in the summer time. A lot of guys rush into it real fast. I feel like you can burn yourself out. I'm not trying to do that. I want to hit my peak during the season. I work out a few weeks straight. Go really hard. Rest for another week and get back into it again."

    He adds, "It can be taxing on your body, especially after an 82-game season."

    Speaking of taxing on the body, Clarkson made basketball related trips to the Philippines, which is his mother's homeland, and to China earlier in the summer, before coming back to LA to host his basketball camp.

    According to his Twitter timeline, Clarkson arrived in Manila on May 26, made his way to Beijing on May 30 and landed back in LA on June 2nd, with a Fuse TV appearance on June 3rd. Then, his basketball camp ran from June 6-9. Even after all the long distance travel and the multiple commitments, images of Clarkson at the Lakers' gym turned up less than a week after his camp concluded.

    "I feel good. I still feel young," Clarkson smiles when wished a belated happy 24th birthday.

    He spent his birthday, June 7, working with kids at his basketball camp, and his best friend, Andre Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder, came out to support during the camp. Roberson's Thunder took the Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, and Clarkson shared his pride in watching his close friend playing valuable minutes in the postseason.

    "Man, I want to be out there playing in the playoffs," Clarkson slips out when thinking back to the Warriors and Thunder series.

    The man charged with resurrecting the Lakers and helping Clarkson taste the playoffs is new Lakers coach Luke Walton, who still features as the Golden State Warriors' top assistant coach during the NBA Finals.

    Clarkson downplays jumping around upon hearing news of Walton's hire via a text sent by Russell, but he openly admits his initial excitement and pure joy over the new coach.

    Why was Clarkson so thrilled about Walton's hire?

    "With the Warriors, the biggest thing is ball movement," Clarkson says. "Those guys are making the ball pop. Everyone is getting open shots, setting good screens. They set a lot of guard to guard screens, take advantage of switches."

    Alongside Russell, Clarkson believes that the Lakers can benefit from similar guard-on-guard screens to create pockets of space and find open shots.

    "That style of play, I think it fits us well," Clarkson says about the Warriors' style. "We got a lot of guys that can put the ball on the floor and make plays for each other, and at the same time being able to play in a system where ball movement is the emphasis."

    He added, "Getting up and down is going to be a cool experience."

    As Walton wraps up his tenure with the Warriors, Clarkson continues to work on improving in the offseason. Soon after the NBA Finals wrap up and Walton arrives in LA, the Lakers will take part in the NBA Draft on June 23, and then July brings about NBA free agency and, ultimately, a decision on Clarkson's future with the franchise. If nothing else, the 24-year-old is about to receive a sharp raise from the $845,059 he earned for the 2015-16 NBA season.

    "Of course, it's exciting for me and my family, as well," Clarkson says about the upcoming free agency period. "I'm kind of just focused on what I can do. Most of that stuff is out of my control to be honest with you."

    He adds, "I'm just working on trying to get better and get better for my team next year."

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