Compared to numerous Golden State teammates who boasted extensive NBA resumes, Ian Clark came to the Warriors in 2015-16 as an unknown, with a mere 53 games of experience and a career scoring average of 2.4 points. Despite the lack of credentials, when Clark looks back on his two-year tenure in Golden State, he fondly recalls the belief teammates and coaches consistently showed in his ability and potential.
“They just gave you confidence,” said the combo guard, who’ll face his previous NBA team for the first time Friday (8:30 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, ESPN). “They let me go out and play my game. They told me to be aggressive, never held me back from doing anything. Obviously there were teaching points when you make mistakes, but they gave me a chance to make those mistakes. Knowing that every player wants to get better, you learn from them and get more confident on the floor.”
Those confidence-boosting lessons paid off in spades for the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder, who averaged 6.8 points last season for the champion Warriors. The previous campaign, Clark appeared in 66 games for a Golden State team that made NBA history by notching a 73-9 record. In addition to a lengthy list of team accomplishments, Clark enjoyed the team’s unselfish atmosphere, which carried over to the court. The Warriors are often praised for their elite shooting, but their passing makes them even more difficult to defend.
“The camaraderie, guys caring for one another, playing for one another,” Clark said of his Bay Area experience. “Guys (in New Orleans) like Rajon (Rondo) and Tony (Allen) can attest to this: Being on championship teams, everyone is pulling for you all the time. When one guy makes a shot, everybody is happy for you. No one cares who gets the credit, as long as the ultimate goal is to win.
“(Unselfishness) is very important. When you make the extra pass, you build that bond with your teammate – now they know that you trust them to make plays.”
New Orleans and Clark will try to apply some of that mindset to a team that entered 2017-18 short-handed due to injuries, including being without two projected starters. The Pelicans won’t have Rondo against the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Friday’s game, with Rondo out 4-6 weeks, adding to the need for New Orleans to get contributions from the entire roster.
“It’s going to come down to everyone helping us to win games, not just the starting five,” Clark said, prior to Wednesday’s opener at Memphis. “A lot of bench guys win games. A lot of guys who just come in and do their role at the right time help you win. That can change a game or a series in the playoffs. It can be what gives you the jump to being that much better as a team.”
Clark viewed his signing with New Orleans as a chance to fill a bigger role for a squad, both on and off the court. Now in his fifth pro season after starring in college at Belmont (Tenn.) University, he wants to carry over some of what he learned in Golden State to benefit his new squad.
“My whole career I’ve always been one of the younger guys on the team,” he said. “This year it’s a little different, because I’m seeing myself in a little different light. I’m not the one-year or two-year player anymore. I’m a five-year veteran and can have a little more of a voice, to be able to help as much as possible, and not sit back and kind of let things go if I see something. I try to be encouraging at all times and help the guys as much as possible.”