Pelicans’ Ian Clark incomes enjoying time with power, work ethic

Throughout his career, Ian Clark has taken pride in being one of the hardest working players on his team, regardless of how much playing time he receives.

Clark’s minutes have fluctuated during his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he may be on the verge of earning a more permanent spot in the rotation with his recent play.

He logged 26 minutes in Friday’s 119-113 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and finished the night with five points, four rebounds and two steals.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry left Clark on the floor for the final 16 minutes of the game and said that the effort Clark played with made it difficult to take him out.

“I just thought he had energy. I thought he was playing with a lot of energy,” Gentry said. “I thought his cutting and his play coming off the dribble-handoffs really hard was opening up some things for us. Not necessarily him, but for other people.”

With Jameer Nelson’s recent struggles, Gentry has given some of the backup point guard minutes to Clark and he’s taken full advantage of his increased time on the court.

Clark has played at least 20 minutes in back-to-back games for the first time since October and he’s made an impact on both sides of the court.

“It’s good for anybody that wants to get back in the rhythm,” Clark said of his increased playing time. “That’s all you can ask for: an opportunity. With opportunity comes rhythm. You start making shots and things go your way.”

Clark’s off-ball movement set the tone for the Pelicans on Friday and made it difficult for the Portland defense to key in on star big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Finding different ways to get easy looks at the basket was essential for a Pelicans team that has severely cooled down from the perimeter as of late.

In December, New Orleans shot 43.2 percent from deep because of the attention Davis and Cousins drew on a nightly basis. But those shots have stopped falling, and the Pelicans have made only 28.6 percent of their 3s in the last four games.

Clark said the two years he spent with the Golden State Warriors before coming to New Orleans taught him the value of moving without the ball and how it can create open shots, even if they don’t come from beyond the arc. 

“We do a lot of standing at times. That can be hard, especially when Demarcus, Jrue (Holiday) and (Davis) want to go 1-on-1,” Clark said. “Guys are loading up in the paint and drawing double-teams. So, being able to move and get guys off their spots to free up those guys is a team effort. We get those guys easy buckets, and it’s a win for us.”

The Pelicans’ bench unit has been one of their biggest weaknesses and they currently rank last in the NBA with 23.8 points per game from their reserves.

But the bench played a major role in Friday’s win and New Orleans hopes Clark can continue his improvement to provide the team with more reliable bench pieces.

“All the great teams have depth on their roster ,” Davis said. “For us to go…

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