Jordan Clarkson is a blur in transition and arguably the most athletic player on the Lakers.
But the speedy 25-year-old was caught off guard during Tuesday’s team-wide sprinting competition at the first day off training camp.
Larry Nance Jr. had already (literally) run through all of the Lakers’ big men, noting that he had to show Kyle Kuzma “what we do to rookies around here.”
Confidence turned up, Nance locked his sights on Clarkson, who had eliminated the team’s guards and wings.
“Man, I got out in front of him by half-court and I kind of saw his legs coming next to me,” Clarkson laughed after Wednesday’s practice. “I was like, ‘Oh no, he’s not catching me.’
“But he opened up on his strides. I thought I had him, but he had me though.”
Clarkson has much bigger goals this year than winning a footrace.
At the beginning of summer, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson gave Clarkson the goal of winning Sixth Man of the Year.
Clarkson averaged the league’s fourth-most points among reserves last year (14.4), but he knows that capturing the award will require winning as a team.
“The big thing about that is: If we ain’t winning, I ain’t no Sixth Man of the Year,” Clarkson said. “Lou (Williams) was averaging close to 18, 19 (points) last year and he wasn’t getting no recognition in terms of Sixth Man of the Year, because we were losing.”
Meanwhile, the other participant in Tuesday’s race is also embracing a new role.
Nance is just entering his third year, but a few of the rookies have already tabbed him as a veteran mentor.
“It’s different,” Nance said. “… Having a young team like that — anybody with some experience becomes a vet. I’m just trying to use the two years I have and show these guys some tricks of the trade that will help them get further.”
The 24-year-old said that part of this requires him to become more vocal. Usually, he is a “lead by example” type of player, but he has been making an effort to pull the younger guys aside and give advice.
He is also looking to improve individually, particularly on the offensive end.
“Coming into my third year, I’ve established myself into being a solid young asset,” Nance said. “Now I’m just looking forward to expanding on that. I showed defensively I can hang with the best of them — even more so than that. Now offensively I’m looking to step into a bigger role and show what I’ve got.”
He showed his speed on Tuesday, leaving his head coach with a punishment of pushups for putting his chips on the wrong racer.
“Luke (Walton) bet against me, so that was the pushups you saw at half-court,” Nance said. “He’ll learn not to do that.”
The afternoon session of Tuesday’s two-a-day practices will see the Lakers scrimmage each other for the first time this year.
After a non-contact session in the morning, Walton said that his players are anxious to go at one another.
“I’m sure they’re dying (to scrimmage),” Walton said. “It’s been a day and a half, and we haven’t scrimmaged once yet.”
Projected starting center Brook Lopez (back spasms) likely will not play in Saturday’s preseason opener in Anaheim, according to Walton.
Lopez has been able to participate in non-contact drills and was “flying up and down the court” on Tuesday, per Walton. But the team will probably elect to play it safe for the weekend’s exhibition.
Rookie wing Josh Hart (hamstring) has not yet been cleared for full-court activity, though he did participate in the team’s half-court shooting drills on Tuesday.
Australian center Andrew Bogut was again unable to practice due to an issue with his visa.