Warriors

After long journey with Warriors, Clark now Kerr's reliable bench weapon

After long journey with Warriors, Clark now Kerr's reliable bench weapon

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.”

Warriors vs. Clippers watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

warriorswatchguide20190118.jpg
USATSI

Warriors vs. Clippers watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

LOS ANGELES -- Somewhere behind the tsunami of conversation and debate devoted to DeMarcus Cousins making his return to the NBA on Friday, the Warriors and Clippers will play a basketball game.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame, with tipoff at Staples Center scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Though Cousins’ Warriors debut will be the focal point of every fan around the globe, the team has a compelling bit of business at hand.

They’re trying to extend a six-game winning streak against a team they no longer dominate.

The Warriors (31-14) had beaten the Clippers 12 consecutive times before taking a 19-point loss at Oracle Arena last January. The teams have split their last four games, including the first two this season: a Clippers 121-116 overtime win on Nov. 12 in L.A., and the Warriors taking a 129-127 victory on Dec. 23 in Oakland.

The Clippers (24-20) remade their roster over the last two summers and had been better than projected before losing their last four games. They own the seventh-best record in the Western Conference and 12th-best in the league.

This is the Warriors’ first trip to Staples since the highly publicized squabble between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on Nov. 12.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors
F Kevin Durant
F Draymond Green
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Clippers
F Danilo Gallinari
F Tobias Harris
C Marcin Gortat
G Avery Bradley
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

INJURY REPORT

Warriors
C Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) is listed as out.

Clippers
F Luc Mbah a Moute (left knee soreness) is listed as out.

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors
Though Cousins will start, he’s not likely to play more than five consecutive minutes, which leaves the possibility of limited action in each quarter. The remaining minutes are expected to go to Kevon Looney and Draymond Green. Jordan Bell, already on the fringe of the rotation, is the odd man out.

Curry (42) and Durant (35) combined for 77 points in the last meeting between the teams.

Backup PG Shaun Livingston has been effective since returning after a brief absence with knee soreness, shooting 10-of-15 from the field over his last four games. He had a season-high 13 points against the Pelicans on Wednesday.

Clippers
Guard Lou Williams is the most dangerous bench scorer in the league. He’s averaging 18.7 ppg, tops among all reserves. He’s averaging 22.5 ppg over his last 12 games.

Backup C/F Montrezl Harrell has been so effective, he consistently plays more minutes than Gortat. His 11 double-doubles lead all reserves.

Williams and Harrell are the primary reasons the Clippers lead the NBA in bench scoring (52.6 ppg). The Warriors are 28th (30.2).

Yes, guard Patrick Beverley remains a Clipper and will get minutes, if only to annoy Curry. It’s fair to say they have a longstanding adversarial relationship.

Officials
Eric Lewis (chief), Gediminas Petraitis, Brandon Adair

Draymond Green's agent reveals his one main wish for DeMarcus Cousins

Draymond Green's agent reveals his one main wish for DeMarcus Cousins

Draymond Green might be more excited for DeMarcus Cousins' return than DeMarcus Cousins is for DeMarcus Cousins' return (that makes sense, right?)

Draymond's agent, B.J. Armstrong, also is very happy that Boogie will be back in action Friday night against the Clippers. He loves Cousins' game and is a big fan.

But Armstrong is hoping Cousins' time with the Warriors isn't just defined by points, rebounds and assists.

"The one thing that I'm really wishing for him is not to be a good teammate but to be a great teammate," Armstrong recently said on The Pure Hoops Podcast. "It's really important as a player, it's really important for your relationships that you have.

"When it's all said and done as a player, you'll remember these moments. This is a significant moment for him."

Yes, it is.

Cousins is hoping for a big pay day this summer in free agency, and obviously a lot of that will depend on how he performs the next few months and how his Achilles responds.

But the rest of the NBA will be paying very close attention to how he impacts the Warriors' chemistry, his standing in the locker room and how he handles somewhat of a lesser role on the court.

The good news for the four-time All-Star is that his teammates have his back 100 percent.

"We'll do everything in our power to make sure he succeeds," Andre Iguodala told reporters after Golden State's win Wednesday night. "That's everybody in the locker room. That's really our focus."

That support is key, and Cousins will rely on it at various points throughout his comeback. It's also important that the help is reciprocated. 

[RELATEDHow Cousins will help Warriors in these three specific areas]

"I just hope he understands the importance of being a great teammate -- not a good teammate -- a great teammate," Armstrong reiterated. "Because that is the most important thing. You walk away from the game -- every player -- hopefully you walk away with some friends you made over the years.

"I just hope Boogie experiences one of the joys of this league -- is to become a great teammate ... his teammates are so excited for him ... I just hope that Boogie appreciates that because he has some great teammates right now.

"This is a priceless moment for him and a very key moment in his career."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller