LAS VEGAS — The San Antonio Spurs have been seeking that reliable shooter to add to the team for some time. Whether it be through free-agency with Roger Mason Jr., trades which netted them Matt Bonner or through the draft as in this year with James Anderson.
In the 2009 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs drafted guard Jack McClinton out of Miami. Known for his deadly shooting touch, the Spurs felt they found another steal late in the draft.
Spurs’ G.M. R.C. Buford praised his ability to shoot the ball, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich praised his defense and Buford said he would be getting playing time along side Tony Parker and George Hill.
Then came the summer of 2009.
McClinton had a chance to show he really had what it takes to make it in the NBA at the 2009 NBA Summer League. Unfortunately he had a forgettable performance in Las Vegas.
He went scoreless in two of the last three games of the summer league and scored two points in the final game against the New Orleans Hornets. He averaged 2.6 points, and 1.6 assists and shot 21.7% from the field. A far cry from his shooting average in Miami which was at 43%.
If that wasn’t enough, when the Spurs signed veteran guard Keith Bogans, McClinton felt he would not get playing time and requested the Spurs to release him. The Spurs obliged. The Minnesota Timberwolves would then sign him but again he would be released and would end up playing in Turkey.
While I was in Las Vegas for the 2010 NBA Summer League, I caught up with McClinton, who was a member of the Chicago Bulls Summer League team, and spoke with him about what he has been doing since his time with the Spurs.
“Being overseas really humbles you,” McClinton said about playing in Turkey, “Let’s you know how bad you really want to get back into the NBA.”
It is this humbling experience which is pushing him to get back into the NBA and prove what happened last summer with the Spurs was not indicative of himself as a player.
“I didn’t play that many minutes but when I was out there I made the best of it,” McClinton said about playing with the Bulls summer league team, “You never know what’s going to happened. There’s so many players coming from different places. It’s a humbling experience and I think I got better.”
For McClinton, like all young players who ever goes through the Spurs system, he took lessons learned from his time in San Antonio not only overseas but now as he continues to develop his game in the hopes of making an NBA team, “Just that you got to be very responsible in the NBA and put that work in. Waking up early, leaving the gym late,” said McClinton about what he learned when he spent time with the Spurs.
“It’s just back to basics. You got to have that open ear to listen. There were a lot of vets there (San Antonio) so I was just listening to those guys and trying to learn from them.”
When the Spurs drafted him, one position the team wanted him to develop was playing point guard. A position he was not accustomed to and might have been a huge factor for his performance with the Spurs summer league team.
Back then he knew it was an adjustment for him to but feels he has improved, “I think I really gotten better at that position. Playing in the Summer League I got into the lane, made some plays for others so that was a plus.”
Though McClinton did not continue his basketball career with the Spurs, he has show the fortitude to not give up his dream of playing in the NBA and improving his game. He averaged 4.4 points, 1.2 assists, and shot 32% from the field in 14.2 minutes with the Bulls summer league team. In his last game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he finished with 12 points, three assists, two steals, and went 4/4 from the free-throw line
He has been in San Antonio, Minnesota, and in Turkey and it came full circle to where it all began for him one year ago in Las Vegas. He shown his game has improved and he won’t let set-backs get in the way of his dream.
In the interview he told me he will now speak to his agent and go from there. Let’s hope he goes from Turkey and back into the NBA soon.