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Utah Jazz: Ian Clark looks to show he belongs

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Ian Clark (21) takes the ball down court, in NBA action, Utah Jazz vs. the New York Knicks, at EnergySolutions arena, Monday, March 31, 2014

By Tony Jones

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 19 2014 07:28PM
Updated Jul 19, 2014 11:33PM

Las Vegas • Ian Clark never ran the point guard spot in high school.

He played the position a bit during his senior year at Belmont, but nobody was comparing him to Chris Paul. His one year with the Utah Jazz was defined as a shooting guard.

But if he’s going to have staying power in the NBA, Clark will probably have to do it as a floor leader.

That’s what Clark faced this week at the Las Vegas summer league, proving to the Jazz front office that he can run an offense, and doing so with Trey Burke and Dante Exum spending a lot of their time as point guards as well.

"I just really wanted to show that I have been working on my game, and that I can be a point," Clark said. "I’ve done things in my workouts this summer in Nashville so that I can get ready for this moment."

In many ways, Clark was the one player on Utah’s summer league roster with a difficult set of circumstance. He came off the bench for most of the week, he shared ball handling responsibilities exclusively, and he never knew how much time he was going to receive in each given game.

But to his credit, he played well, whether he was running the offense or not. He made 3-pointers consistently. He scored at the rim, and he had a showed off a nice mid-range game from 15 feet.

"It’s something that I’ve been working on," Clark said. "I needed to develop that teardrop and to get another aspect to my game that can make me a better player."

Clark has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. He’s vying to be that third point guard behind Exum and Burke. He also holds value as a shooter, and that was apparent this week. He made 3-pointers by spotting up, he made shots off the dribble, he got to the free-throw line, and he made shots in transition.

The Jazz want their third point guard to be someone who has the ability to push Burke and Exum in practice, but at the same time know that playing time won’t come in abundance.

Clark has made a convincing case to be that guy, scoring 8.4 points and handing out two assists per night during the week.

He had a 17-point game on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets and came up with three steals on Friday against the Trail Blazers. Now, it’s up to Utah’s front office. If the Jazz bring him back, he will add a shooter and another player who can handle the ball.

"I think he’s played well," Utah assistant Brad Jones said. "He’s shot the ball well, and that’s important."

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tjonessltrib

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