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Rockets' Clark Aims For Consistency

Gary Clark is ready for year two with the Rockets

July 11, 2019 - 3:46 am

By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

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LAS VEGAS (SportsRadio 610)- Before becoming one of the most important players on one of the NBA’s best teams, P.J. Tucker was a bit of a basketball nomad. A second round pick in 2006, Tucker appeared in 17 games with the Toronto Raptors as a rookie before jumping to Israel, then Ukraine, then back to Israel, followed by stops in Greece, Italy and Germany before finding his way back to NBA. At one point last season, Tucker shared a meal with Rockets rookie Gary Clark, and something Tucker told the undrafted rookie stuck with him. Tucker didn't offer up advice or critique Clark's game, instead, he paid the rookie a compliment.

“He said the difference between me and a lot of other guys is coach and the team know exactly what they’re going to get from me every night,” Clark recalled Tuesday after the Rockets 94-92 Summer League win over the Sacramento Kings. “I may not make a shot, but my energy defensively, my vocal talk to the guys defensively is going to be there no matter how tired, how hurt, how much we play.”

Not only was Tuesday’s win the Rockets first of the summer, it was a breakout game of sorts for Clark who struggled in his first two outings in Vegas, averaging 8 points on 30 percent shooting.

“First two games (there was) a little pressure, the expectation that the organization has on the young guys to produce, especially myself being that I played so much with the Rockets this year. I should be able to come out here and look like I’ve been in the league for a year. First two games I was very opposite of that.”

Against the Kings, Clark finished with a game-high 24 points and 8 rebounds, including a driving finger roll with 51.7 seconds left, breaking a 90-90 tie.

“Gary’s been working hard, he’s been in the gym,” Rockets assistant coach Matt Brase said. “It was a good game for him tonight, he kind of had some rough stretches in Summer League so far, but he came out and did a great job, played with a little bit of confidence, shooting open shots, attacking the rim a little bit, so a good night for Gary on both sides of the ball.”

Ankle surgery kept Clark on the bench last summer, but he signed a 2-way deal with the Rockets at the end of training, quickly turning into an indispensible member of Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. With his 45-day clock about to expire, the Rockets chose to waive Danuel House in order to create a roster spot for Clark, who signed a three-year contract with the team, but minutes became scarce as his production dipped. Now, as he gets ready for his second NBA training camp, Clark is trying to find his way back near the top of the Rockets depth chart.

“I think now, my main focus, along with all the other things I’m working on, is to be able to be consistent.”

One area where Clark is trying to be more consistent is with his three-point shot. He shot just 29.7 percent from long distance last season, and while he's spent time working on his release, a big key for improving that number is mentality and preparation.

“One thing I learned with being a pro is, Eric Gordon, he can literally sit there and knock down 40 in a row coming straight out of the locker room. When it comes to the game, he can run off 10, and for me, if you watch my stats, shooting-wise, I’m very up and down, I think the most I’ve hit in a game is probably like three, so to be more consistent with knocking down shots, shooting the same shot every single time.”

Gordon started last season in a dreadful shooting slump, but never stopped shooting. When the All Star Break hit, Gordon, who was in attendance at Cox Pavilion Tuesday, connected on just 32 percent of his threes, but he never got down, and he never stopped shooting, so in turn, that number climbed to 43 percent after the break.

“They always say you’re a pro, you’re a shooter for a reason, that doesn’t just happen. It’s reps. Trust your ability, you’re in the league for a reason, and guys get paid to do what you do, so if you can confidently start working on that and getting mentally where you just don’t miss it’s one of those things that comes with the game.”

Clark is only shooting 28.6 percent from three-point range in Vegas, but just as important as making the shot is the willingness to take it. He’s averaging over nine attempts per game, including 13 on Tuesday night.

“Coach D’Antoni is like really adamant about just get (shots) up,” Clark said. “I remember one time in the season when I was playing a lot I probably missed four in the first half and he told me to take five more in the second half, and I ended up making like three, so it’s one of those things that coach, eventually you’re going to make them.”

Much like most of his current Summer League teammates, Gary Clark was looking for a chance in the NBA this time last year. Not only did he get that chance, he made good on it, now he’s looking to build on it.