When we last discussed Jordan Clarkson’s desire to play for the Philippine National Team in the Asia Championships the focus on him being named to 24-player pool and his status was tied more to is ability to play as a “natural born” player. The Philippine basketball federation was said to be getting FIBA the paperwork they were requesting to clear Clarkson and, thus, opening the avenue for him to play in the end of September tournament whose winner would earn a berth to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Well, while we are still waiting for a final word from FIBA, there seems to be a more pressing question about Clarkson’s availability and it is tied to the Lakers, the start of training camp, and the timing of the tournament in China. Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk has the story:
The Lakers open training camp in Hawaii Sept. 29. The semi-finals of FIBA Asia is Oct. 1, the finals Oct. 3 — and the Philippines made the finals of the last such event. Playing likely means Clarkson misses at least the first three and maybe first five or six days of training camp. Good luck selling Byron Scott on that idea.
As Kurt cites in his piece, representatives from the Philippine National Team have requested to talk to Byron Scott, but the odds of the head coach or the team releasing Clarkson from his responsibilities at Lakers’ camp are slim to none. In fact, per a report from Mike Trudell of Lakers.com it is strongly implied the Lakers would expect him back at camp:
However, the tournament extends into the start of Lakers’ training camp, which all NBA players under contract are required to attend. Lakers spokesman John Black told us that the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement gives players the right participate in international play if there is no injury issue.
The question, then, is whether Clarkson should play at all. The timing of the start of camp would still allow Clarkson to play in three games for the Philippines and then he could fly back to Los Angeles or, potentially, meet the team in Hawaii where camp convenes. Getting some burn in an intense international competition could be a great learning experience for the young guard and, in a way, get him as ready for camp as any other basketball activity in the lead up to camp.
However, even with that the case, I would argue the drawbacks are likely bigger than the benefits. Forget the injury risks, Clarkson is not only a key rotation player, he is still young enough where camp time represents learning time. Even a few days away can mean falling behind. Not just from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but from a chemistry one.
And when you add the injury risks back into the equation things get dodgier. Clarkson is still making less than a million dollars this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer. He is facing a crucial year in terms of guaranteeing his financial future and cannot risk jeopardizing that. Imagine him getting hurt in this tournament. Or, imagine Clarkson playing heavy minutes for the Philippines and then coming to a training camp led by a head coach notorious for rigorous practices where running players hard is the norm. That doesn’t sound like an ideal scenario.
As someone who also has Filipino heritage, I’d love nothing more than to see a Laker suit up for the Philippine National team and play a prominent role in their success. But, ultimately, the timing here just seems bad. Clarkson is still young enough that he can play in future tournaments and, hopefully, one of them would be an Olympic Games. Considering he (reportedly) has committed to the Philippine National team through 2024, he has plenty of time to make his mark.
As much as I’d like for him to get that chance later this month, it seems it would be better that he didn’t.