That wasn’t enough.“A lot of it is on Jeremy in getting guys to where they need to be and run their offense,” Scott said. “It’s on him as a point guard to get guys involved. But it wasn’t just Jeremy. It was the whole team.”Scott took aim on the Lakers’ one-on-one style of play. Young’s team-leading 23 points on 4-of-9 shooting and 13-of-13 mark from the foul line in 24 minutes off the bench marked a vast improvement from the 26.1 percent clip he had averaged in the previous five games. But Young picked up a technical foul with 4:03 left remaining after Jazz forward Enes Kanter set a screen. Hayward then converted on the technical before Derrick Favors scored on a reverse layup that put the Jazz up 89-83 with 3:53 left. But plenty of the focus reverted back to Lin, whom Scott has pushed to improve in his aggressiveness, playmaking and defense.Despite Utah guard Trey Burke scoring 20 points on 7-of-20 shooting, Scott said Lin “did a pretty decent job.” With Lin improving his shooting accuracy from December (35.7 percent) to January (49.3 percent), Scott credited his improved shot selection achieved by driving to the basket instead of settling for jumpers. But Scott sounded unsure if Lin could mirror Price’s toughness. “I’m not saying (Lin’s) soft or anything like that,” Scott said. “But Ronnie Price is a tough kid, period.”Lin’s take?“I don’t think I play soft,” Lin said. “I do everything I can to make everything as tough as I can and be hostile on both ends of the floor.”And to think, Scott said beforehand he “probably” would make changes in the starting lineup. All of which will provide plenty to talk about regarding the Lakers. That includes Bryant, of course. SALT LAKE CITY >> Kobe Bryant stayed put in Los Angeles, allowing the Lakers’ 36-year-old star both to rest and for reporters to refrain from asking persistent questions that coach Byron Scott believes have become “blown out of proportion.”“Everybody is always interested in what Kobe is going to do, and if he’s going to play,” Scott said. “I understand that part. But once it’s said and done, go on to the next subject.”The Lakers’ 94-85 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday at EnergySolutions Arena offered plenty of other subjects to discuss. The main topic went beyond the Lakers (12-29) cementing both a three-game losing streak and the NBA’s fourth-worst record, two statistical footnotes that could worsen as the season prolongs. Jeremy Lin started at point guard while Ronnie Price sat to heal an aggravated right elbow. But Lin hardly made his case to retake the spot he once lost, posting only six points on 3-of-10 shooting, three assists and three turnovers in 30 minutes. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “I don’t think he’s been great,” Scott said. “I think he’s been OK. But I don’t think he’s been terrible, either.”Why?“It’s a tough system for him and playing with a hard-nosed coach and hard-nosed player,” said Lakers forward Nick Young, referring to Bryant. “But Jeremy is going to be all right.”Few would describe Lin, or the Lakers for that matter, as all right against Utah. The Lakers posted 19 turnovers and a season-low seven assists. Utah guard Gordon Hayward matched that assist total when he wasn’t scoring a team-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting. Bryant’s career-high 17 assists in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland featured him recording eight of them in the first quarter.“I would’ve loved to play better,” Lin said, “but I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of effort.”
The Lakers paid the Washington Wizards $1.8 million for their 46th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft to secure Clarkson after becoming intrigued with how he excelled as a combo guard at the University of Missouri. With Clarkson’s team option worth $845,059 for the 2015-16 season, the Lakers want to find out if their initial instincts prove correct before determining his future.Meanwhile, the Lakers have no other point guards under contract next season. Steve Nash presumably will retire from a storied 19-year NBA career after missing the entire 2014-15 campaign because of chronic back issues. Price and Lin will become unrestricted free agents.“He’s young and the sky is the limit,” said Price, who has supported the Lakers extending Clarkson’s minutes. “He hasn’t been labeled yet. Once this league puts a label on you as a particular kind of player, it’s hard to break that label.”Yet, that might have already happened.His quick dribble and first step have allowed Clarkson to speed like a bolt of lightning.Yet, Scott noticed “the game is still going 100 miles an hour for him,” as Clarkson has tried to find the same balance drivers encounter when handling a high-powered engine.“I just have to slow down in my mind,” Clarkson said. “It’s definitely challenging. You want to be aggressive and want to go. At the same time, you can’t play at that pace. You got to stop and go in this league.”Point guards also have to provide a dual threat in scoring and passing. Shoot too much, and you become easier to guard while increasing the odds your teammates feel disengaged. Pass too much, and your scoring opportunities suddenly diminish.Clarkson has mostly experienced the former scenario. In the Lakers’ 92-80 loss to the New York Knicks, Clarkson may have handled the grand stage at Madison Square Garden by posting a career-high 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. But he tallied only one assist.“I thought I could get by my guy. Sometimes I should’ve just swung the ball and gotten it moving,” Clarkson said. “I’m a scorer naturally. But I have to work on the other things now. It’s a process for me and I’m trying to get better.”That quest evolved when Clarkson spent time last week with Nash. Clarkson said the two discussed how he can improve his pace and run the Lakers’ offense better.Clarkson already had informal text message conversations with Nash throughout the season. But Nash’s personal talk with Clarkson last Wednesday marked the first of many conversations Clarkson believes he will have with the two-time NBA MVP.“It does a lot learning from a great. I’ll continue to keep talking to him and pick his brain,” Clarkson said. “We’re trying to get it in when we’re home and stuff like that. He isn’t trying to do too much because now I’m getting minutes. But he’s always on call. If I have anything on film I want to look at, I’ll hit him up.”It seems safe to presume that will happen. Nearly 90 minutes before Clarkson’s first career start Jan. 23 in his hometown of San Antonio, the Lakers’ locker room seemed chatty. Forward Nick Young bantered with teammates as always. Others talked about Bryant’s debilitating right shoulder injury, or if general manager Mitch Kupchak will make any moves leading up to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.Clarkson tuned all that out as he sat by his locker, watching clips of the Spurs on his laptop.“He’s done a great job of soaking everything in,” Price said. “It’s one thing to come in and get worked out by the coaches every day. It’s another thing to actually embrace what they’re trying to teach you and add it to your game. To see the things they’ve worked on him day in and day out, to see that translate into games, that’s been for me the best thing I’ve seen.”And after patiently waiting for his time in the first third of the season, Clarkson seems determined to make the most of his latest opportunity. So much that he maintained he will not feel fazed going up against a top-ranked point guard.“I want to be great and be one of the best guys in the league. Hopefully that happens,” Clarkson said. “I’m still young and got a long way to go. I’m just trying to get better every day. I appreciate coach for what he did and not just throwing me in the fire from the jump and letting me play. I was able to learn. Now I’m going to enjoy the process and continue to work.” “I’m just learning,” Clarkson said. “I’m not scared of anything. I’m going to go out there and compete every night.”Consider it done. The Lakers (13-35) enter Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks (26-22) at BMO Harris Bradley Center with Clarkson averaging 14.8 points and 2.8 assists over the past five games since he became the starting point guard.“I didn’t do him any favors by throwing him in the fire by going up against teams he played against and some of the point guards he had to face,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “But he held his own. That’s obviously a great sign for us and for him. I want him to continue to develop and take the challenge.”Beyond Clarkson’s initial production, it makes sense why Scott suddenly granted the 22-year-old rookie this mission after he had initially averaged just 13 minutes and 5.1 points and 0.9 assists per game through 22 appearances.The Lakers will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season and only the seventh time in franchise history. Ever since Kobe Bryant suffered a season-ending injury to his right shoulder two weeks ago, the Lakers’ backcourt dwindled to inconsistent options that included veteran guard Ronnie Price and 26-year-old Jeremy Lin. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error MILWAUKEE >> They seemed eager to have an inexperienced rookie defending them, hopeful a quick score would quickly diminish their opponent’s confidence.Instead, Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson seemed more emboldened.San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Houston’s James Harden, Washington’s John Wall and Chicago’s Derrick Rose still added to their endless highlight reels of pick-and-rolls, jumpers and drives to the basket.Clarkson acknowledged them as the “top point guards in the league.” But Clarkson never backed down. He often answered on the other end of the court with a nifty array of jumpers, floaters and reverse layups. Clarkson stopped his opponents sometimes, too.