After the flurry of transactions in the first few days of free agency, Jordan Clarkson got his share of the free agency pie.
Clarkson came to terms with the Utah Jazz on a three-year, $55 million contract “extension” that will supersede his current deal. This development ended months of uncertainty surrounding Clarkson’s status with the Jazz, as there was the question of whether or not he would opt into the final year of his contract. At 31, Clarkson may also not have been within the developmental timeline of Utah, which took on a youth approach after trading away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
But then, Clarkson averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists, partly reflecting how he took on a bigger lead role with the departure of Mitchell. That may have helped the Jazz front office decide to sign the Filipino-American up to 2025-2026, aligning Clarkson’s contract with Collin Sexton and both Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler (should Utah pick up their respective team options).
Clarkson can officially sign his deal with the Jazz at 12:01 PM ET (12:01 AM Philippine time) at the earliest and once he clears that hurdle, the biggest obstacle to him joining Gilas Pilipinas will be gone. Or so it may seem.
It had been previously reported that Clarkson will miss most of the Gilas’ preparations for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup due in part to the possibility of prolonged contract negotiations with Utah. But now that the 2020-2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and the Jazz have taken care of that part, the focus now shifts to whether or not he can commit to the Philippines. Since Clarkson last played for Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Clarkson has signified his intention to play for Gilas in the FIBA World Cup but nothing is final until he takes to the court against Dominican Republic on August 25.
As odd as it may seem, discussions between professional basketball players and their national basketball federations have become more common even if the former is more likely than not earning more than national team athletes from other sports.
The risk of injury and influence from their professional basketball clubs are some of the possible factors that are taken into account and it’s hard to blame an athlete for making these considerations. It must be noted, however, that Clarkson has played at least 61 games in the last three seasons and Utah previously allowed Clarkson to play for the Philippines in the fourth qualifying window.
We can only wait and see how Clarkson and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas work things out and in the meantime, Justin Brownlee has been taking part in Gilas Pilipinas’ practices should he need to step in. Brownlee and Clarkson offer different things to the team, with the latter’s ability to do a little bit of everything and familiarity with some of his teammates and Philippine basketball in general proving to be invaluable in recent months. Meanwhile, the latter is a gamebreaker with his scoring, with the gravity Clarkson draws opening up scoring opportunities for others.
In a situation where the Philippines has to choose, there’s really no wrong answer, but it would be tough to pass up an NBA-caliber player in Clarkson, whose cold shooting nights still feel like the best performances of some of Gilas Pilipinas’ perimeter players not named Dwight Ramos. Head coach Chot Reyes should have a clearer picture of his needs after the Philippines’ Europe camp, where Gilas Pilipinas thus far played mostly against U20 national squads.
Will Jordan Clarkson play for the Philippines in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup? What initially was a yes is now… anybody’s guess. Previous obstacles have already been put to bed, yet Clarkson’s status with the national team still has its uncertainties. All of it can be settled in the next few days, but Filipinos are hoping and praying to have one less distraction before the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.