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Jordan Clarkson and Ty Lue had private training sessions in the offseason


It wasn’t too long ago that Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Jordan Clarkson had what was one of the worst playoff runs of all-time, playing ‘hero ball’ but like a hero that had stepped onto a court of kryptonite.

He was selfish almost to the point of hilarity, even once looking off a call for a pass from LeBron James to miss a short jumper right before halftime. Per Basketball Reference, he had 13 assists in 19 games, with eight of those assists coming in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. To make matters worse, he shot 30.1 percent from the field and 23.9 percent from three-point range. On the court and on paper, it just looked bad.

If you had never watched Clarkson play before, you would wonder how he even made it into the league.

According to cleveland.com‘s Chris Fedor, Clarkson has been working hard in the offseason to improve his game, setting up private workouts with Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue in the summer after he determined he needed to enhance his physique and playmaking abilities.

“A lot of it was pick-and-roll stuff, creating space,” Clarkson said when asked about the focus of those workouts. “We worked on a lot of passing drills. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but we did a lot of passing drills, ball-handling and stuff like that.”

It doesn’t sound crazy. Although Clarkson’s ball-dominance was at an extreme in the postseason, he’s never been considered a guard with a high basketball IQ. He attacks the rim as much as possible and if he sees a teammate open, he might make the pass but he’s never been a floor general, able to coordinate the offense and display astute-decision making throughout the game.

Clarkson would admit to that when speaking to Fedor after practice on Friday. Working with Lue on his ability to read defenses has been another major point of his offseason training.

“Just making those reads off those pick-and-rolls, getting the ball out of my hands and learning how to make those passes out of those situations,” Clarkson said. “I really ain’t never been taught that. Just being able to sit down and kind of pick it all apart, it was good for me.”

Lue, a point guard in the NBA for the 11 seasons before he traded in his jersey for a suit, isn’t one of the conventional players who turned coach because they showed an extreme interest in amassing as much basketball knowledge as possible (although he did).

He’s played around and been mentored by all-time NBA greats like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, two of the most intelligent and successful players in league history. Lue coached James, a dynamic passer with otherwordly court vision and an upper echelon basketball IQ, as well. That said, as far as Lue’s ability to show Clarkson what he needs to do to become a better playmaker, there may be few coaches better equipped for the task.

Lue doesn’t want Clarkson, who averages 14.1 points per game for his career, to lose his aggressive scoring nature though. He just wants him to be able to make the right play.

“Not really anything different, just adding to his game,” Lue said. “We still want him to be a scorer. But when guys are open, to be able to make the right play. Definitely got to keep working with that. You haven’t seen a lot of passes yet, but he put the work in to get better at that.”

The proof is in the pudding. Nobody should expect Clarkson to play like Chris Paul but the 2018-19 season will show fans just how much Clarkson has improved as a playmaker.

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