JORDAN Clarkson – one of few players of Asian origin currently operating in the National Basketball Association (NBA) – found himself caught up in a blockbuster trade deadline deal that saw Cleveland Cavaliers rebuild their team.
Cleveland, whose hopes of reaching a fourth straight NBA Finals appeared to be receding, made some bold moves to reignite their roster in the hours before the trade deadline.
The Cavs – whose team has revolved around superstar LeBron James since he returned to his home state of Ohio in 2014 – were involved in 10 personnel changes at the deadline.
Out went former NBA all-stars Isaiah Thomas (Los Angeles Lakers), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) and Derrick Rose (Utah Jazz), along with Channing Frye (Lakers), Jae Crowder (Jazz) and Iman Shumpert (Sacramento Kings).
In came Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr from the Lakers, Rodney Hood from the Jazz and George Hill from the Kings. Cleveland also sent its 2018 first-round draft pick to the Lakers, while taking back a future second-round pick from the Heat, which was then subsequently sent to the Kings.
The moves arguably make faltering Cleveland stronger – although they could also end up strengthening the Lakers’ hopes of landing James when he becomes a free agent in the summer.
That is because the trades executed by the Lakers at the deadline will ensure they have plenty of salary cap space this summer – when they may look to pursue players such as James and Paul George.
For 25-year-old guard Clarkson – who could qualify to play internationally for Philippines due to his mother – the trade ended his three-and-a-half-year stay in Los Angeles and increased his chances of becoming an NBA champion.
Drafted 46th overall by the Washington Wizards in 2014, he was traded to the Lakers on draft night, and had become a mainstay of the LA team.
In 273 career appearances (138 starts), he averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, averaging 28.1 minutes.
On the moves for Clarkson and Nance, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said: “Jordan and Larry add athleticism, energy and length to both ends of the court for us.
“This trade is also a reflection of our continuing commitment to invest in our roster in ways that help us evolve and compete at the highest level now and into the future.”
Cleveland, who have lost 13 of their last 20 games to slip to a 31-22 record from 24-9, had been in desperate need of more energy – particular on the defensive end of the floor – and will hope their new recruits can only bridge the gap to Boston Celtics (40-16) and Toronto Raptors (38-16) in the East but Golden State Warriors (42-13) and Houston Rockets (40-13) in the East, should they make it that far.
Clarkson is one of only three current NBA players of Asian descent. Chinese big man Zhou Qi has managed only 14 outings (averaging little more than five minutes per appearance) for Houston Rockets, while Brooklyn Nets’ Jeremy Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, suffered a season-ending injury on the opening night of the 2017-18 season.