MANILA, Philippines Los Angeles Lakers’ Fil-Am rookie Jordan Clarkson’s eyes grew wide while Utah Jazz playmaker Trey Burke put his hands up in the air then rested his palms above his head while his jaw dropped in disbelief.
They wished they were in the other side of the globe playing instead of being part of a crowd wildly cheering inside the NBA Cafe Manila here on Friday.
They agonizingly watched MVP runner-up James Harden fumble on the last play that allowed the Golden State Warriors to escape with a 99-98 win over the Houston Rockets in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals.
Asked if they were in Harden’s shoes in that final moments of Game Two, Burke told BTV host and NBA.com Philippines columnist Jinno Rufino that the Rockets star should have called a timeout when the double team came. Clarkson agreed with Burke but he also added that he wished Dwight Howard should have attacked the basket for a higher percentage shot.
Burke is rooting for nobody in the playoffs. He’s not in the mood to cheer for anyone except his team but, unfortunately, the Jazz failed to make it to the playoffs.
“Yeah, I would be playing in the playoffs next year,” Burke toldPhilstar.com/NBAPhilippines.
With a young nucleus in place at Utah, Burke hopes that they could develop quickly and bring the team back to its once lofty status in the wild Western Conference just like the old days when Karl Marlone and John Stockton reigned in Salt Lake City. For now, he could only painstakingly watch the playoffs with Clarkson and the rest of the group while in town.
Pressed for which team he thinks would win, he gamely answered.
“I think Golden State is too much for Houston. In the East, Cleveland will advance,” Burke said.
Clarkson, however, thinks otherwise.
“I’m not rooting for anyone but I think Houston would win. I’m not following [the Eastern Conference] so I can’t say anything about the series there,” Clarkson said.
The Fil-American guard, who was recently named to the All-Rookie First Team, almost nailed it right when the Warriors threw the ball away and missed in their last two offensive plays in the final minute. But Harden was ganged up in the closing seconds and failed to issue an assist that could have given him a triple-double.
After leading the Lakers in scoring and assists after the All Star break, Clarkson is looking forward to having his mentor Kobe Bryant back on the floor with him and also fellow rookie Julius Randle. With the Lakers grabbing the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft, he’s leaving it all up to the management on who will they select.
The Lakers are projected to pick eitherJahlil Okafor and Kalr-Anthony Towns depending onwho will be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ top pick. For Clarkson, it doesn’t matter who they get.
“I ain’t the GM (General Manager). So I can’t say anything. I just focus on improving my game and building on my rookie season,” Clarkson said.
The pair of NBA young talents along with legend Horace Grant, the Oklahoma City Thunder girls and New Orleans’ mascot Hugo are in town for a series of events leading to the launch of the league satellite office here.
On Saturday, they will conduct a basketball clinic for 60 underprivileged kids in Tondo, Manila under the NBA Cares program then will have a meet and greet session with fans at the NBA Store in Glorietta, Makati in the afternoon.
On Sunday, they will agonizingly watch again the Warriors-Rockets battle in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals at NBA Cafe Manila.
They are not complaining that they are here, but Burke and Clarkson just could not wait for their time to play in the big stage where they could have the ball in their hands with time winding down and the game on the line.
Both hope they would not fall into a nightmarish finish just like what Harden had.
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