JAKARTA -- With around three minutes remaining in the third quarter of the Philippines' 96-59 win over Kazakhstan in the 2018 Asian Games, cheers erupted from the Philippine bench. Nobody had made a spectacular play on the court; it was a player off it that was causing the commotion.
Jordan Clarkson was finally here.
After days of uncertainty surrounding his stint, the Cleveland Cavaliers guard arrived in Jakarta from Los Angeles and was brought straight to the basketball arena in the sprawling Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex on Thursday.
Since his plane touched down at around the same time the Philippines-Kazakhstan game tipped off, there was no way he could make it in time. But it could be argued that his mere presence inspired his teammates and raised their level of play. From the moment he took a seat behind the team bench, the Philippines outscored their opponents 38-19.
Clarkson's arrival was the culmination of a complicated series of events that drew in the NBA, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Asian Games organizers as the NBA initially refused to give the go-signal to his participation. But in the end, the league relented, and here we are.
"Definitely relieved," Clarkson said when asked how it felt to finally make it. "It went back and forth so many times, saying I was gonna playing, then I wasn't gonna play. So now being able to participate is awesome."
Although Clarkson only caught the last 15 or so minutes of the game, he liked what he saw.
"Really good. Fast, up and down, shoot threes, a fun style of play. We got a few days of practice before the next game. I'm just gonna come in here, get used to how they do things here. At least we got four days of practice and I can get used to it.
"I'm really exciting. I'm ready for the games. I'm very excited I'm finally able to do this, being able to play with my team, for the country. It's definitely something I've been looking forward to."
The Philippines scheduled a practice just five hours after their win over Kazakhstan in an effort to bring Clarkson up to speed as they gear up for their next game against China on August 21.
"It's a big game," Clarkson acknowledged. "Every game is a big game. We're trying to win every game when we step on the floor. I'm just coming in here to compete and try to win."
Although he admits that outside of Asi Taulava and Gabe Norwood he doesn't know much about his new teammates, Clarkson is confident he can fit in.
"The rest of the players I've seen a little bit. But those are the two that I really know from the last team I came down here to practice (with). (I want to) kind of just get situated with the team. It's my first time being able to play alongside everybody, the coaching staff, everybody. It's not a learning experience. I've come here to win and try to medal."