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It will be Reunion Sunday when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
For Cavaliers Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and for Laker Isaiah Thomas, it will mark the first time they’ve gone against their former teams.
They were part of the trade Feb. 8 that send Clarkson and Nance to Cleveland in exchange for Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cavaliers’ 2018 first-round draft choice.
Clarkson, who scored 21 points in a 116-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, is second in the league in scoring off the bench, averaging 14.2 points a game.
He downplayed the significance of going against his former team after practice Saturday at UCLA.
“I’m not going to make it a big deal,” Clarkson said. “It’s just another game. But it’s going to be fun to play in. Just being here back in LA, to be around my friends, my family is here as well, so just come in and represent and try to get a win.”
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 10, 2018
Clarkson said he wanted no part of any type of video tribute from the Lakers. One of the guys for whom he was traded, Thomas, you may remember was slated to receive a tribute from the Boston Celtics when the Cavs visited TD Garden on Jan. 3.
However, Thomas did not play that night and asked the Celtics to hold off on a tribute so his family could be there, a request the team granted. It was pushed back to Feb. 11, but that was Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement, so it was called off after Pierce expressed his dissatisfaction. Cleveland then traded him to LA three days before that game, anyway.
Clarkson was asked if he wanted a video tribute from the Lakers, and he said “Oh, hell no!”
“Nah, nah, nah, bro,” he said. “Nah, nah. I’m cool. Me coming in the game and saying what’s up, I think that’s good enough for me.”
Nance, who took part in the NBA’s slam dunk contest at Staples Center over All-Star Weekend and then played there Friday night against the Clippers, said Sunday’s game against the Lakers will be a bit more meaningful.
“I’ve just been so occupied with what we’re doing here, honestly I haven’t thought about this game until we started preparing for this game,” Nance said. “I definitely think that being back in Staples Center for All-Star Weekend was a nice little reintroduction.”
Nance has started at center for Cleveland the last three games since Tristan Thompson went down with a sprained right ankle. In those three games, Nance is averaging 17.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 32.7 minutes, shooting 62.9 percent (22 of 35) from the field. Overall, he is averaging 11.9 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a Cavalier.
“Whether it was with the Lakers or the Cavs, playing the Clippers was still a road game,” Nance said. “Tomorrow is going to be the real one and the when the court’s all purple and gold and I’m not wearing it, it will be interesting.”
After the Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, the team did not practice Saturday. Thomas shot 5-of-13 against Denver, finishing with 10 points. In 11 games as a Laker, the 29-year-old Thomas is averaging 15.5 points and 5.4 assists, while shooting 39.2 percent from the floor and 32.3 percent from 3.
Jeff Green, who will start for the Cavaliers in place of Rodney Hood (back) against the Lakers, has remained in contact with Thomas, who will be a free agent after this season.
Green said Thomas is no longer “second guessing his injury.”
“He’s great,” Green said. “(The trade) was a refresher. He feels like he’s back to mentally to where he wants to be. He’s been playing well, he’s been playing great, and you know, he’s finally getting comfortable with himself with the injury. I don’t think he’s second guessing. I think he’s just out there playing and he’s doing really good.”