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Earl Clark making the most of his opportunity with the Lakers

Jan 14, 2013, 9:22 PM EDT

Dion Waiters,  Earl Clark

Earl Clark was supposed to be nothing more than an afterthought for the Lakers this season. But a concussion to starting power forward Pau Gasol has opened the door for Clark to contribute, and he’s made more than expected of his opportunity thus far.

Clark was a throw-in as part of the trade that brought Dwight Howard to L.A. from Orlando over the summer, and had been treated like it by the Lakers coaching staff until they absolutely didn’t have a choice. Clark appeared in just 10 of L.A.’s first 33 games this season, and logged single digits in minutes in all but one of those contests.

In the last four games, however, Clark has been pressed into action — primarily due to Gasol’s absence, but also due to Jordan Hill being out for the rest of the season due to a hip injury. Clark hasn’t disappointed, averaging 10.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 blocked shots in 24.2 minutes of action.

Clark has been even more impressive over his last two games, getting the starter’s minutes in place of Gasol, and finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three blocked shots in the Lakers win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, the team’s first in its last seven games.

It isn’t just the numbers that have been impressive about Clark, it’s the way he’s developed into an athletic and intelligent NBA player, seemingly knowing when to pick his spots and playing with the right amount of energy on virtually every possession.

It didn’t always come that easily to Clark, and in fact, he struggled to develop at all in his first season and part of a second while playing for the Suns. Those were winning years in Phoenix, and the team didn’t need any help inside with Amar’e Stoudemire, Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, and Lou Amundson giving them more than enough of an inside presence, especially during Clark’s rookie season that resulted in a run to the Western Conference finals.

Clark’s minutes were limited, and he was being groomed to be more of a pick-and-pop player than he was trained to battle inside. He struggled to come along, and ended up being traded to the Magic as part of the deal that brought Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix the following season.

Alvin Gentry spoke a bit about Clark before Monday night’s game against the Thunder, and more than anything, he seemed happy that Clark was performing while getting his shot.

“I think it’s great to see him take advantage of an opportunity to play,” Gentry said. “He’s done a good job, put up some good numbers, and rebounded the ball well. I think that’s what you have to do. If you get a chance to play and you’re given an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it so that at least it’s in the back of someone’s mind.”

As for Clark coming on after three seasons, Gentry pointed to some other players you might have heard of that took a little time before coming into their own.

“It’s been that way forever in this league,” Gentry said, when asked if some players just need more time to develop than others. “Steve Nash took a little while to develop, too. There’s been other guys that have been OK and then all of a sudden after their second or third years been able to become real solid NBA basketball players. I think you can look at Paul George, he’s been a decent player but all of a sudden now you watch him play and I think you can make a strong argument for him being the most improved player in the league.”

Clark will get at least one more game with heavy minutes as a member of the starting lineup, as Gasol will miss his fifth straight game due to the concussion when the Lakers host the Bucks on Tuesday. He’s likely to remain in the rotation even after Gasol returns, largely due to the way he’s made an impact with the opportunity he’s been given.

  1. lakerluver - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    It probably won’t happen but Earl needs to start and Pau needs to come off the bench. Not that he’s a better player than Pau but is a better fit as a starter. The LAKERS need youth and energy in the starting lineup. Plus, Pau would still get his minutes and maybe more scoring chances as a backup. And he would probably finish most games.

    • BigBeachBall - Jan 15, 2013 at 6:01 AM

      gasol is due to make about 19 bills and clark about 1…. that’s ain’t happening…

      • ludachrisgsx - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        That’s a terrible reason to not do it. If it makes sense it should be considered. The more Gasol plays without Howard on the floor the better the spacing will be. It used to happen a lot when Phil was coaching. They started the game with Bynum and Gasol, but they would then start substituting and the two would take turns manning the center spot. It was a pretty good strategy then and would probably work well now.

        I think if Clark plays well he would be a good fit in the starting role to bring in some much needed athleticism to an aging starting line up. Use Gasol as the leader of the second unit and play Nash with him as much as you can without hurting the first unit.

    • omniusprime - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:59 AM

      Why don’t you go fly a kite? You’re a sorry excuse for a Laker fan suggesting Pau take a back seat to Clark, plus truly ignorant to make such a stupid suggestion. You only show up after a Laker’s victory so don’t bother showing up at all to spew your nonsense.

  2. freemantowilliams - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:51 PM

    This is a huge reason why i love professional sports. The guy that’s an after thought suddenly begins to shine. From Earl Clark to Russell Wilson it’s always cool to see it happen.

  3. themanchine - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Did no one (especially Stan Van Gundy) notice how well he played in (mind-bogglingly) limited opportunities in Orlando? He “could” be a force on D & the boards. As is right now, he’s more than solid on that end and obviously athletic enough to avg 10+ points.

  4. jerdogthompson - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    Not a Laker fan but I appreciate EC’s play of late. For all those bandwagon Laker fans he played with D12 in Orlando and the team would probably do better as the previous person noted starting EC and bringing Gasoft off the bench. Won’t happen but good to hope.

  5. 00maltliquor - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    I love it. This reminds me of last year, when Jordan Hill finally got his chance, and never looked back. Hope he continues this. We need all the help we can get.

    • badintent - Jan 15, 2013 at 12:33 AM

      Your team sure does. Maybe if Kobe will pass the ball to him , he could get POINTS IN THE PAINT. a rare commodity for the Laker brain trust.

      Tickets for the EC bandwagon now on sale ! Mike Brown is still laughing.so are the Clipper fans.

  6. paulhargis53 - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    Relying on a journeyman? The lakers are stooping that low?! Uff. 16-21! Lakerluver, another idiot idea out of you.
    Isn’t it time for your buddy princessjustine to let you poke him in the fartbox?

    Celtics won their 6th in a row tonight.

  7. lakerluver - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    I mean, ph53, you’re a laugh a minute! You’re a regular Jack Benny……Loser.

  8. paulhargis53 - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    Jack Benny?!…..Ooof !

    • badintent - Jan 15, 2013 at 12:35 AM

      At least he didn’t call you a David Letterman, he still does plenty of Borsh Belt hand signs for lousy jokes. He got that crap from Jack Benny.

  9. rjlink1 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:07 PM

    Earl Clark has shown a little something, but let’s not get crazy – he’s still got a long way to go. I thought the loss of Jordan Hill would be fatal, but if Clark can play well, there may yet be hope of making the playoffs in Lakerland.

  10. pricejustin24 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    And I’m the 12 year old.
    Earl Clark gettin his shot is nice, gasol off the n bench only makes sense. Clark was a beast at Louisville and once he gets over he spotlight and starts playing, he could probably be as good as Brandon bass. Lmao.

  11. pricejustin24 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Chowderheads are funny

  12. lakerluver - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    Yeah, Jack Benny. I thought I’d refer to someone from your era that you could identify with. Sounds just as juvenile as “fartbox”, huh?

  13. fruitcovejag - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Ever heard Earl talk? Imagine a higher pitched Marla Gibbs. Pulling for you though Earl. Dwight, not so much!

  14. scottheis82 - Jan 15, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    look who’s back… paulhargis53, all it took was a 6 game C’s winning streak to bring you back to trolling.

  15. socal9er - Jan 15, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    This is a story? So he played well against Cleveland so what?

  16. dko83 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:38 AM

    Earl putting me in a tough spot. My hatred for the Lakers is matched only by my love for my alma mater UofL. Really happy he’s playing well (finally, UofL fans thought he was capable of this right of out school.) My all time favorite Earl moment for you to feast your eyes on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07sUIXkMbhE

    • Alex K - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:53 AM

      It took him time to put it together at U of L, too. I’m glad to see him playing well.

  17. raidmagic - Jan 15, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    I liked Earl when he was here in Orlando and he was a fan favorite as well. Hard worker. Unfortunately he was in the same spot in Orlando as he was in Phx. Too many good front court players ahead of him. Anyway, good for you Earl, keep it going.

  18. paulhargis53 - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    LL: Oh, I get it, because my name has 53 in it, that means I’m 53 years old, or I was born in 1953….ugh,, what a freaking dope you are.I have to use the fartbox reference, the censors don’t let certain things go by.

    Princessjustine: What a weak attempt at posting. You managed to cram just about every cliche of subject matter in there. It figures LL/bozosforall would think that was funny. Honestly, I think he’s just happy that someone is TRYING to fight his battles for him. We’ve all seen him fail miserably under AT LEAST 2 different screen names already.

    Scott: You’re full of sh*t, I’ve been posting after each laker loss. People have eyes, they know I’ve been on here. You, on the other hand were a ghost until the lakers finally won a game. You’ll go right back into hiding here shortly.

    See ya later Larry,Moe, and Curly.

  19. omniusprime - Jan 15, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    It’s good that some player on the Lakers is making the most of his playing time, now the whole team needs to follow Earl Clark’s example. Still he’s no substitute for having Pau back in the starting lineup. Let’s hope C;ark’s hard work ethic rubs off on the rest of the team, especially Dumbtoni.

    Get Well Soonest Pau!!!

  20. pricejustin24 - Jan 15, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Pau should ride the pine. You watch the games??? My god- pau doesn’t fit the system!!! He’s a center. Did you not watch the Olympics…. He was the best big man on the floor at all times…
    Pau=backup center.
    1-0 with Clark/Howard frontcourt… That’s the only chance lakes have

  21. pricejustin24 - Jan 15, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    People living In the damn past

  22. magicbucs - Jan 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Seeing him play in Orlando he had good moments but he’s not a starter he might be a guy to play for about 10-12 min/game. If you’re starting him due to injuries fine but to start him otherwise you’re in serious trouble lol

  23. pricejustin24 - Jan 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    “Seeing him play in Orlando…”
    When was that?? He got zero run. Jaggov

  24. cosanostra71 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    I was excited when we got Clark in the trade. I was hoping that he would end up getting more playing time, and I’m glad he’s making the most of the opportunity. I think he can end up being a rotation player off the bench for the Lakers even after Pau and Hill get healthy.

  25. pricejustin24 - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    ludachrisgsx | Jan 15, 2013, 12:19 PM MST
    “That’s a terrible reason to not do it. If it makes sense it should be considered. The more Gasol plays without Howard on the floor the better the spacing will be. It used to happen a lot when Phil was coaching. They started the game with Bynum and Gasol, but they would then start substituting and the two would take turns manning the center spot. It was a pretty good strategy then and would probably work well now.

    I think if Clark plays well he would be a good fit in the starting role to bring in some much needed athleticism to an aging starting line up. Use Gasol as the leader of the second unit and play Nash with him as much as you can without hurting the first unit.”

    Amen

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