SALT LAKE CITY — For the last four games, Jordan Clarkson has sat on the bench dressed in his trademark fashion statement as he's recovered from a right ankle sprain.
There's hope the Sixth Man of the Year candidate will be able to return Friday in the Utah Jazz's matinee home contest against the Indiana Pacers (1 p.m., ATTSN). Clarkson went through a non-contact practice on Thursday and said he's "feeling pretty good."
The rest may have helped Clarkson heal from some other ailments, too. You see, that ankle sprain wasn't the first injury he's suffered this season — it just finally kept him out.
"I twisted my ankle a few times this year," said Clarkson, who went through practice on Thursday. "First time was Memphis at home, twisted it again in Dallas, we went to Phoenix after and ended up twisting it. I think it was like the first or second quarter on a fast break came down and landed wrong."
Following the game against the Suns, Clarkson said the swelling was so prominent that it looked like he had a golf ball connected to his ankle. At long last, it was time for him to rest up.
But as Clarkson spoke about the bumps and bruises he's suffered this season, he revealed one that might have been the reason for his recent shooting slump. Speaking like it was an afterthought, Clarkson shared that he suffered a fracture in his shooting hand in early March.
"During the season, you get a bunch of banged-up, little, small injuries," he said. "I've had a crack in my shooting hand — my shooting hand was swollen pretty bad."
What's that now? A crack?
Clarkson said the injury occurred during Utah's game in New Orleans on March 1. Immediately following the injury, Clarkson had his worst stretch of the season.
Through the first 35 games of the NBA season, Clarkson was seen as the runaway winner of the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He had averaged 18.1 points, was shooting 45% from the field and 37% from 3 on 8.6 attempts per game. He was electric off the bench night in and night.
In the 16 games since, he's shooting numbers have nosedived — shooting 36% from the field and 30% from 3.
At the volume which Clarkson shoots — his green light is so big it could illuminate Salt Lake City — there's bound to be some poor shooting nights. That's why most chalked it up to be an extended slump. And if there's anyone with the confidence to shoot themselves out of a slump, it's Clarkson.
"Missing shots — that's part of the season. Ain't nobody playing 72 games at the highest level and shooting a crazy field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage in the amount of clips that I get up," Clarkson said. "There's bumps, and you know I don't get too high or too low about nothing — I stay even keel."
Thursday's new information, though, changes that narrative a bit. It suddenly didn't feel like just any other slump. But to Clarkson, if he was healthy enough to play, he was healthy enough to play well.
"It is what it is but ain't making no excuses at all," Clarkson said. "That's just part of the game, something that I'm getting through and kept playing through. Everything's fine and something that we didn't feel was a big problem."
His April numbers might confirm that. In the four games he's played this month, Clarkson has shot 46% from the field and 35% from 3-point range. A good sign that sixth man has found his early-season shooting touch. Now, he's just got to get ankle right again.
"He looked like he was moving well," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after Thursday's practice. "The health performance staff will look at him again and continue to monitor where things are."
If you ask Clarkson, though, he's ready to get back out there.
"I'm checking all the boxes, making sure I'm good, getting all the swelling out," he said. "Still a little bruising, but I feel like I'm ready to go as well."