OAKLAND – Ian Clark rarely knows when he’ll enter a game. Might be the first quarter. Could be the second. Sometimes, it’s after halftime.
As for playing time, Clark might get five minutes. Or he might get 25.
But bet on him to play. The fourth-year guard has worked himself into a reliable weapon for the Warriors, someone coach Steve Kerr can summon from a warm spot the bench and have faith he’ll be rewarded.
Clark came through once again Saturday night at Oracle Arena, pouring in a career-high 23 points in 21 minutes in a 135-90 smashing of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I've come a long way,” Clark said. “For me, it’s just building confidence in myself. Not knowing where your minutes are going to come from earlier in my career, until now having a path and a semi-idea of where I’m going to get in the game and who I’m going to be out there with.”
Missing only three of the team’s 28 games this season, and one was because he was injured, Clark has filled the void created by the departure of veteran guard Leandro Barbosa, an offensive sparkplug who spent the last two seasons with the Warriors.
Clark, however, is a more versatile player, able to run point guard if necessary.
It has been quite the journey. Clark’s first contact with the Warriors was as a member of their team in the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, where he was teammates with Kent Bazemore and a future All-Star named Draymond Green.
Clark was named MVP of the summer league and was signed by Utah. He spent much of 2013-14 and 2014-15 bouncing between the Jazz and the D-League. Before reuniting with the Warriors as a free agent in September 2015.
He’s been a Warrior ever since.
“To see where he’s at today, where you can play him at the point?” said Green, who recalled Clark is merely a spot-u shooter. “He can make plays off the bounce. He can make plays for others. He continues to work and work. It’s amazing to see.”
Clark has scored in double figures six times this season, including three games in which he scored at least 20 points. He’s the team’s leading scorer off the bench, averaging 7.3 points per game.
On this night, Clark even started “getting into his bag,” as phrased by Stephen Curry, referring to Clark dropping a crossover that left Portland big man Noah Vonleh stumbling off a cliff.
“That was an amazing move,” said Green, who along with those on the Warriors bench danced and howled in celebration.
“He’s getting more consistent minutes now,” Kerr said. “He’s kind of taken Barbosa’s role from last year. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s an excellent shooter, but he’s really improved his in-between game. Makes a lot of floaters, puts the ball on the floor and he’s a very smart player.
“We’re thrilled with Ian.”