On the court against the spidery Michael Carter-Williams on Friday, it looked as though the Bucks' point guard could wrap his 6-foot-8 wingspan around the Lakers' guard and touch his own shoulders. Among a particularly hairy starting lineup of Carlos Boozer, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre, the just-about-baby-faced rookie seemed no more than half of his 22 years.
There's something innocent about the Missouri product. Hopeful even. And amid a season that has seen Kobe Bryant sidelined by injury (again), as many wins as championships lining Jeanie Buss' office window, and a commitment to black alternate jerseys with sleeves, hope, in any form, is greeted with an MCW-sized bear hug.
Three straight wins will certainly lift spirits. Especially when said rookie -- the only one left standing of the team's two-man 2014 draft class -- leads the team in scoring two games in a row.
A fourth-quarter surge from Ellington, in which the journeyman guard rectified an 0-for-6 start with all 14 of his points, ultimately toppled the Milwaukee Bucks, 101-93, and lifted the Lakers to their second three-game winning streak of the season. But it's Clarkson's game-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, one game after scoring a career-high 20, that will linger long after Staples Center goes cold and quiet in a season destined to finish without a trip to the postseason for a second straight year.
"I'm just feeling more comfortable," said Clarkson, who after the game sported a T-shirt with the mug shot of a young Elvis Presley.
As banal as that sounds, that's important.
The Lakers have historically relied on their big, swinging legacy rather than the draft, often leveraging all those sunny days, all those titles and all those Hall of Famers to great effect; this is the same franchise that less than three years ago turned Andrew Bynum and a few party favors into Dwight Howard, then the best center on the planet. Their mixed opinions on analytics may be to their determent, but even quants concede there are inherent advantages sewn into those purple and gold jerseys. "I don't know that the Lakers need to be at the forefront of analytics usage," one analytics official told ESPN's Baxter Holmes, before noting the advantages even a big-market team can glean from those spreadsheets.
But as one of five teams with a loss column already north of 40, it behooves the Lakers to turn to the future. Even if Clarkson, the 46th overall pick last June, isn't in the long-term plans, developing seedlings like him could ultimately produce the type of young assets that can be flipped for the next big-money superstar in the team's long lineage.
Byron Scott, in his own way, appears to agree.
When asked what the biggest difference has been for Clarkson since the beginning of the season, the Lakers' coach replied, "Yeah, playing."
He's not wrong. After seeing his playing time yo-yo throughout the first three months of the season, Clarkson has averaged 27.1 minutes during February. And while Scott kept the rookie out of crunch time against the Bucks, he has stuck with him in the starting lineup, even as Jeremy Lin has averaged a team-best 16.3 points and shot 50 percent since the All-Star break.
"He's playing much better now," Scott said. "He's playing with better pace, he's not as frantic out there as he was earlier in the season. He's reading the defenses better, even though he still has a lot to learn. Defensively, he's gotten better and he's still got a long way to go. [But] his overall game has improved from training camp to this particular point."
The production from said court time, outside of the past two games, won’t exactly blow you away: Clarkson is averaging 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in February while shooting 45 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3. His PER on the season is a solid 14.95, his true shooting percentage a nice 51.
But it's something. And in a season like this one, something is more than enough.
LOS ANGELES -- Wayne Ellington scored 11 straight points in the final six minutes of the game, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-93 Friday night for their season high-tying third straight victory.
Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 points and Jerryd Bayless had 12 off the bench for the Bucks, whose franchise record-tying, four-game winning streak against the Lakers ended.
Michael Carter-Williams scored eight points in his second game for Milwaukee as the starting point guard.
After missing all six of his attempts from the field through the first three quarters, the journeyman guard came alive in the fourth, shooting 6-for-7 and scoring all 14 of his points to rally the Los Angeles Lakers past the Milwaukee Bucks, 101-93, at Staples Center on Friday night.
The victory is the third in a row for the 16-41 Lakers, who have strung together three consecutive wins one other time this season and two or more wins in a row only four other times.
Down seven points after three quarters, the Lakers stormed back midway through the fourth, ultimately pulling ahead on an Ellington driving layup with 6:01 to play.
The Bucks threatened late, pulling to within one with just under five minutes to play, but a big Ellington 3-pointer stretched the lead to four and the Lakers never looked back.
Ellington also finished the game with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Jordan Hill and Jeremy Lin each chipped in 14 points, and Ed Davis had a near-double-double (eight points, nine rebounds).
Clarkson still schoolin' (because Clarkson is also a college, you see): Jordan Clarkson continued to provide a glimmer of hope in an otherwise morose Lakers season. One game after scoring a career-high 22 points to lift the Lakers over the Utah Jazz, the rookie guard finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes, most of which coming through the first three quarters.
Swag out: Nick Young missed his second consecutive game because of a left knee injury. Young, who is shooting a career-low 36.6 percent from the field this season, noticed swelling in the knee the morning after Sunday's jubilation-inducing home victory over the Boston Celtics. He was originally listed as questionable heading into Friday's game but was ultimately unable to go.
Up next: The Lakers stay at Staples Center for a nationally televised date with the surging Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of nine of their 11 games in February heading into Friday's games, on Sunday (3:30 p.m. PT, ESPN).
Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Are Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott right to criticize the Lakers' postgame celebration against the Celtics?Holmes: Absolutely. Even though the Lakers haven't had much to celebrate this season, some of them acted like clowns after that game, hence all the reaction once footage of said reaction went viral. I know times are tough and it was a hard-fought overtime win against their biggest rival, but they're still professionals. Act like you've been there.
Markazi: Yes. I didn't see any problem with it, but Kobe and Byron have won multiple championships with the Lakers, and if they thought it was embarrassing, then they have every right to say so. I see where they are coming from. You've lost seven straight and 16 of 17 -- don't act as if you've won a championship after beating a below-.500 team at home in overtime.
2. Kobe told Bill Simmons he's not planning to retire after next season. If that happens, do you think he'll remain with the Lakers?
Shelburne: Yes. And I don't think that's exactly what he told Bill Simmons. He just refuted that he'd made a decision about retiring next year, as was being erroneously interpreted by some people. He could still retire after next season, he just hasn't decided yet.
Markazi: Yes. I think he retires with the Lakers. I think Kobe will eventually decide to retire after next season, but he's not ready to make that decision yet and isn't looking for a Derek Jeter-like farewell tour.
3. Which Laker are you most excited to see develop the rest of the season?Holmes: Jordan Clarkson is the only one who really comes to mind. With Ronnie Price out for the season following elbow surgery, the Lakers' point guard depth is slimmed even further, so it comes down to Clarkson and Jeremy Lin to fill that role. Clarkson has looked more and more comfortable with time, and he should get plenty of it down the stretch.
Shelburne: It's a toss-up between Clarkson and Tarik Black. I don't know how good either player is yet. Are they future starters in the NBA or future bench players? Could they be even better than that? I also want to see how Ryan Kelly develops. He has a chance to be a good stretch-4 in this league, but I think we've concluded he can't really be effective as a small forward.
Markazi: Clarkson. He might not be the long-term solution at point guard, but he has shown he can be a solid role player and reserve on a contending team.
The Lakers used a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter to take their first lead at 90-88. The Jazz failed to gets stops down the stretch and couldn't score on the offensive end.
Utah jumped out to a 10-point, first-quarter lead, but the Lakers chipped away behind Clarkson and Carlos Boozer before tying the game at 59 in the third quarter. The Jazz led 88-80 when the Lakers went on their final run.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was "angry" and "very disappointed" with how some of his players boisterously celebrated Sunday night after an overtime win against the rival Boston Celtics at Staples Center.
Scott said he wasn't aware how some Lakers -- largely guard Nick Young, forward Jordan Hill and forward Carlos Boozer -- acted on camera during on-court interviews after the win until he saw footage of it that aired Monday night on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"
Kimmel played a clip of those players' reactions for injured star Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who was a guest on the show, and afterward Bryant sat there stone-faced and silent.
Scott said he did the same when he saw the same footage.
"Kobe's reaction was pretty much my reaction when I was watching it," Scott said after practice Tuesday at the Lakers' facility. "I was just shaking my head like, 'I can't believe this.' "
Scott said he showed his players the footage Tuesday morning and "just told them that I was disappointed in it. That's not us as Lakers. That's not how we act. It showed a lack of professionalism."
Scott said he didn't discipline any players and believes the matter is resolved after addressing his players.
"As a coach of this team I was very disappointed," he said. "That's not how I act, win or losses. I want our guys to know that."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett never wanted to leave Minnesota when the Timberwolves traded him to Boston nearly eight years ago, never wanted to jump from a sinking Celtics ship before Paul Pierce convinced him to follow him to Brooklyn two years ago.
And he sure didn't feel great about uprooting his family in the middle of a season when the prospects first arose to return to his beloved 'Sota last week.
Sitting at his Malibu home over the All-Star break, the only true superstar in Wolves history thought long and hard about what that move would mean. He thought about mentoring Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins.
He thought about going back to the state where he was drafted and where he met his wife, setting down roots and one day following stars such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson into ownership. He thought about restoring a relationship with a franchise that was tattered when he was traded.
He was born in South Carolina, became a high school sensation in the Chicago area and a champion in Boston.
But for him, Minnesota will always be home. And in the end, that lure and the possibility of a much greater role down the road proved too great to resist.
"It's perfect," Garnett said on Tuesday at a re-introductory news conference that came five days after he was acquired from Brooklyn in a trade. "If you have a story, this is a fairy tale. This is a perfect ending to it. This is how you want to do it."
For Garnett, it actually may be the beginning.
Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters after practice at their facility Tuesday that Price would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing the procedure. The Lakers regular season ends April 15.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.
Price played in 43 games for the Lakers this season, starting 20 of them before moving back to the bench so Scott could give more minutes to rookie Jordan Clarkson.
Price averaged 5.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 22.8 minutes per game and was considered to be the Lakers' top perimeter defender. He signed with the Lakers as a free agent in September.