Warriors can call themselves champions

LAS VEGAS — For the first time in decades, The Golden State Warriors can call themselves champions.

Undrafted rookie and championship game MVP Ian Clark saved his best for last, leading the Warriors to a NBA Summer League title game win with 33 points in a 91-77 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Clark lit up in the second, pouring in 19 points in less than nine minutes of playing time and putting on a show for the crowd of 7,357 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

By the end of the game, Clark became the highest scoring player of 2013 NBA Summer League (33 points) and made more three pointers in a game than anyone else this summer (7 of 10).

Clark came to Las Vegas from a successful showing in the Orlando Summer League, where he played for the Miami Heat and finished sixth overall in scoring average with 16.4 points.

Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said it was amazing to watch Clark take control of the game and lead the team to victory:

“He was great. He’s a guy that played extremely well in Orlando, and he was ready and prepared when he got here.  Just a spectacular performance, and I’m very happy for him because he’s a quality guy. He carried us and it was great to see.”

Once Clark caught fire, Phoenix made a defensive effort to close out on him. But he’s not only a knock down shooter, he’s quick as well, and was able to slash through the defense to find himself open most of the night.

Throughout the championship game, Clark said it was his teammates and coaches that gave him the confidence to have a good night:

“My teammates just kept looking for me.  I made sure to space the floor out and let guys like Kent and Draymond do what they need to do and if they needed me, I was ready.”

Clark has been ready from the get-go. He said he wasn’t surprised by going undrafted and he knew he would need a night like this one to get where he wanted to be:

“I didn’t expect to get drafted. I wanted to come into the Summer League, and use it as my shot to show what I can do.”

After the performance he’s had, there’s no doubt Clark is all over the radar of many NBA insiders. Not the least of which is Coach Jackson, who told SFBay Clark is ready for the next level:

“I’m sure he becomes a hot name now, but we knew what type of player he was. Give our ownership and front office a lot of credit, they’ve done a great job of spotting talent. We would love to have him. He’s an NBA player.”

Looking very confident, championship MVP award in hand, Clark said he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself but that he feels really good about his chances of a training camp invite after what he was able to do on the court:

“Hopefully my chances are pretty good. I’m trying not to pay attention to and worry about what I can’t control.  I just wanna come out here and play basketball and do what my coaches tell me to do.”

With very few roster spots on NBA teams available, many of the players in the Summer League will leave Vegas without an offer or invite from a team. Coach Jackson said his advice to young players is to never give up, and to look at what Clark did as an example:

“You never know who’s watching. Every single time you step on the floor you’re selling yourself and you’re having a job interview. Guys out there like Ian Clark, because he knocked it out of the park during his interview process, meaning the championship game of the Summer League.”

Even though he’s in Vegas, Clark said he won’t be taking his good luck to the tables.  He said being at center court accepting the game MVP award was a special moment that left him nearly speechless:

“It’s good to be here. Hard work pays off. Never settle, just keep working.”

Becoming the first team to win the Summer League Championship was a significant feat that also included a 15-game Summer League win streak for the Warriors dating back to July 2010.

The Warriors ended up making quite the splash this Summer by adding multiple pieces through draft, trades and free agency, and now, by bringing home the Summer League trophy.

Draymond Green told SFBay the win meant a lot to the team:

“To be able to come out here and win this, its great. At the end of the day its not the NBA championship but it’s something the NBA runs and there’s a lot of good talent out here.”

Looking forward, Coach Jackson told SFBay he’s excited about the changes that have been made and ultimately they’re a better team for it.  But when asked if he’s looking forward to the regular season Jackson said, not right now:

“I’m looking forward to some rest right now, and spending time with the family.  The regular season will come quick enough.”


Follow @SFBay and @NBASarah on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors 2013-2014 season.