After the Utah Jazz’s Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs in the NBA bubble, Jordan Clarkson was a little cryptic about his impending free agency and whether we had seen the last of him in a Jazz uniform.
“I can’t tell the future,” he said.
Fast forward to Nov. 20 and within two hours of free agency opening up the Jazz and Clarkson signed up for four more years of good vibes.
“It’s crazy how fast I connected with these guys and this group,” Clarkson said via Zoom on Wednesday. “It’s been great for me and I just didn’t want to lose that.”
To be honest, the negotiations with Clarkson were as easygoing as the player himself. The Jazz wanted to keep him and Clarkson wanted to come back.
It’s not as if Clarkson didn’t have other offers. In fact, Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said there were bigger “glamour markets” interested in Clarkson’s services.
But Clarkson wasn’t wooed by big cities, glitz and glam. It was the relationships with the Jazz players, the quality of his connection with head coach Quin Snyder and the prospect of being with the team during the prime of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s career that had Clarkson wanting more.
And speaking of Mitchell, it was the Jazz’s star guard who advocated for Clarkson to be back on the team this season.
“When we’re talking about bringing Jordan back, Donovan really cosigned on that decision,” Lindsey said.
The NBA bubble actually might have ended up being the Jazz’s best free agent lure when it came to Clarkson. After arriving in Utah in mid-December Clarkson had less than three months with the Jazz before the season was suspended.
When the season resumed in July the players were around each other all day everyday for two months and it made for intense bonding experiences. Not only that, but the Jazz were the team that sought out Clarkson on the trade market and took him out of a losing situation with the Cleveland Cavaliers and brought him to a playoff contending team. Winning matters.
“Losing isn’t fun and it takes a toll on you, mentally, your body and stuff like that,” Clarkson said. “Coming into a winning situation, coming to a winning environment, it kind of brings the best out of everybody, pulls people together. And everybody accepted me with open arms, telling me to be who I am, go out there and do what you do, be who you are around the guys. It was really big for me.”
Clarkson felt like the communication, playing style and overall culture of the Jazz made him a better player and after seeing what he was able to accomplish with the Jazz in his short amount of time he wanted more. And he didn’t just want to sign a one-year deal or a shorter contract, but wanted to see things through and be here for what he thinks could be contending years for the Jazz.
“It just gives us time to grow and become what we want,” Clarkson said. “You look at the key guys, key players here and we’re all kind of still young. So it’s definitely giving us some time to accomplish what we want to accomplish and that’s win and try to win a championship soon.”