The growth of Ian Clark as a Warrior goes back to training camp in September, when the Belmont University product was hustling hard for a job that would keep him in the NBA.
Clark won the job, the final spot on a crowded roster. He soon progressed to relevancy and now has become essential.
He is getting minutes with the defending champions, was a part of the team that posted the best regular season in NBA history. Life is good for a young guard making his way.
“I go play golf with Steph (Curry) and Andre (Iguodala) and HB (Harrison Barnes),” Clark said. “I had a relationship with Brandon Rush because we played together in Utah. I have a relationship with Draymond Green because I played Summer League with him when I came out in my first year.
“They embraced me. Of course, on the court, we all get along because we see each other every day. But off the court, that’s when I really felt like a part of the team.”
With Curry sidelined by a knee sprain and playing only 38 minutes over five games in the first-round playoff win over Houston, Clark has moved from the end of the bench and right into coach Steve Kerr’s playing rotation.
“He earned it,” Kerr said Friday. “You never know what to expect from a guy who hasn’t been in the playoffs. And he responded so well. He looked incredibly poised and confident out there.”
Clark played 16 minutes in the series-clinching Game 5 Wednesday night, scoring seven points and getting three steals. He played mostly well over 13 minutes in Game 4 and was particularly good in Game 3, his most complete performance in the series. His layup gave the Warriors a late lead until seconds later, when James Harden drained a game-winning jumper.
“The reason we went to him in the Houston series is we needed more movement and he’s a really good cutter,” Kerr said. “He came in Game 3 and did a great job of getting our offense going with his movement and cutting. Ian’s a really good player. He’s shown that he’s not afraid of anything.”
Clark, 25, is playing his first full season in the NBA. He credits the team’s veterans, particularly Iguodala, for giving pointers about the game, helping him adjust to the ways of the league and generating dialogue off the court.
“He’s on me constantly, throughout the games and in practice,” Clark said of Iguodala. “Even on the plane when we’re talking after the game. He’s been the guy that’s been on me the most. He holds me accountable. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in now.”
Though only 6-foot-3, Clark is getting minutes at both guard positions, playing off guard when Shaun Livingston is at the point and point guard in relief of Livingston.
If Iguodala is an “uncle” figure, Curry is like a big brother – a proud big brother. He’ll be watching from the sideline for at least another week as the Warriors move into the conference semifinals.
“He’s ready for the moment,” Curry said of Clark. “Every time I’ve been hurt and I look at him, he kind of gives me that nod, ‘Like, I know. It’s about to be my turn. I got you.’ It’s that kind of vibe. And that’s not just for show. He actually believes it and has been going out and playing well.”