NEW ORLEANS –The Warriors expressed affection for Pelicans guard Ian Clark with both words and gestures.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr called Clark “one of my all-time favorites” as primarily a backup shooting guard in the past two seasons that included an NBA championship. Warriors guard Stephen Curry joked he wanted to replicate the creative pre-game routine. When Clark spoke to reporters beforehand, he saw Warriors forward Kevin Durant in the hallway and jokingly called him “weak.”
Simply put, the Warriors had a soft spot for Clark.
“He was the worst teammate in the history of the league, never worked hard and always took things for granted,” Curry joked.
Curry then turned serious and credited Clark for excelling in a backup role where his minutes were unexpected and his shot opportunities were sparse. Yet, Clark still averaged 6.8 points on 48.7 percent shooting in14.8 minutes off the bench last season.
“That’s why he’s going to have a long career,” Kerr said. “That’s what I had to do as a player: just stay ready. He might play one game. He might not play the next. Yet we have to be able to produce. It’s a very difficult job. But Ian understood that and embraced it.”
Kerr then outlined “the glimpse of the mental anguish that I lived for in a 15-year career.” That entailed two tough things. Stay patient for sparse playing time, but remain ready whenever it happens. Stay patient with limited shot opportunities, but make sure to bank on those few chances.
“A guy in a reserve role as a shooter not getting a lot of shots, there’s a lot of pressure on each individual shot,” Kerr said. “That’s what I thought Ian did a really good job of staying in the moment, not worrying too much from one game to the next. Staying ready and staying with it.”
Still, the Warriors did not retain Clark, who signed a one-year deal with New Orleans. Golden State anticipated Clark would land a multi-year contract until the marketplace said otherwise. The Warriors also coveted forward Nick Young because of his scoring punch and wing presence.
Nonetheless, the Warriors will honor Clark with an NBA championship ring when they play the Pelicans on Nov. 25 at the Oracle. Clark said he’s “excited to get mine.”
“I’m still close with those guys; it’s a close group,” Clark said. “When I see them, it’s still going to be the same. So it’s all good.”
Clark made the Warriors pay with 14 points while shooting 4-of-4 from 3-point range. He credited that efficiency partly to Kerr talking to him privately about preparing for his unexpected role.
“That was one of the ways, being able to come off and do what you’re asked in the limited time you are out there out on the floor,” Clark said. “Ultimately that time may grow. You’ll be able to have an opportunity and gain more confidence and be on the floor more.”