For the past four games, the Utah Jazz have been missing Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner Jordan Clarkson due to a right ankle sprain.
From the way he framed it following Thursday morning’s practice, though, this injury just happened to be the first one to force him to miss time.
After noting that he’d rolled his ankle three times in the past three weeks, Clarkson casually, almost accidentally revealed he’s also been dealing with a fracture to his shooting hand suffered in early March.
“During the season, you get a bunch of banged-up, little, small injuries. I’ve had a crack in my shooting hand — my shooting hand was swollen pretty bad, stuff like that. I’m playing through all of those,” he replied to a query about whether the multiple ankle injuries have been a factor in his shooting slump of late. “… It was the [March 3] Philly game on the road — before that game, I saw some doctors and stuff. And, you know, that just is what it is. But I ain’t making no excuses at all. That’s just part of the game, something that I’m getting through and I kept playing through, and everything’s fine — it’s something that we didn’t feel was a big problem.”
Clarkson, who hasn’t played since Utah’s 117-113 overtime loss in Phoenix on April 7, said he expects that to change for Friday’s 1 p.m. matinee tipoff against the visiting Indiana Pacers.
The high-scoring guard said that he’s been undergoing treatment, icing his ankle, and trying to prepare for the back-to-back set against the Pacers on Friday and the Lakers on Saturday.
“I think I’m expected to play [Friday],” Clarkson said. “I’m checking all the boxes, making sure I’m good, getting all the swelling out — there’s still a little bruising. But I feel like I’m ready to go.”
Coach Quin Snyder said that Clarkson was a full participant in Thursday’s non-contact practice, and that, “It looked like he was moving well.”
Snyder added that the team’s health-performance staff will continue to monitor the guard’s status before ultimately making a determination on his availability.
The NBA’s leader in points per game off the bench this season, Clarkson said that while he tweaked his ankle in that defeat at Phoenix, that was actually the culmination of his ankle problems, rather than the beginning of them.
He said he first rolled his ankle in one of the Jazz’s home games against the Memphis Grizzlies — either March 26 or 27. Then he did it again in Utah’s April 5 loss at Dallas.
Then it happened a third time early in the Suns game on a transition attempt gone awry.
“Ended up twisting it in, I think it was first or second quarter, on the fast break — came down and landed wrong,” Clarkson said. “Just finished the Phoenix game, and ended up having, like, a golf ball on my ankle, a lot of swelling and bruising. So I just needed to get all that stuff out.”
The seventh-year guard is averaging 17.2 points in 51 games off the bench this year, though his shooting splits had worryingly declined each month from December through March.
In an admittedly small sample size of just four December games, he shot 48.0% from the field and 40.9% on 3s. In 16 games in January, those declined slightly to a still-great 45.7% and 38.0%, respectively. In 14 games played in February, they went down again, to 43.4% and 35.6%. And in the 13 games he played in March, they tumbled all the way to 34.5% from the field and 29.3% beyond the arc.
Clarkson, who had bumped those numbers back up to a respectable 45.8% on field goals and 35.5% on 3s in his four April games played before his third sprained ankle, said he’s not terribly concerned about the up-and-down vagaries of his shooting percentages, and that the best thing he can do is simply keep playing like the team wants him to.
“Missing shots — that’s part of the season. Ain’t nobody playing 72 games at the highest level and shooting a crazy field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage in the amount of clips that I get up,” Clarkson said. “There’s bumps, and you know I don’t get too high or too low about nothing — I stay even keel. I know my shots [are] gonna go in when I take them, and [I’m going to] keep continuing to make plays.”
JAZZ VS. PACERS
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
When • Friday, 1 p.m.
TV • ATTSN