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Art Garcia

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With the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire, the Suns will need second-year forward Earl Clark to step up.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Changing of guard offers Clark, rookie Davis chance to play


Posted Jul 11 2010 3:34PM

LAS VEGAS -- Earl Clark and Ed Davis were merely bystanders to those free agency fireworks holding the NBA's attention span hostage the last few weeks. That's not to say the two power forwards weren't impacted by the comings and goings of the Class of 2010.

Clark is beginning his second season with Phoenix, while Davis' career is just getting off the ground in Toronto. See a pattern? Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh won't be around to eat up 35 minutes a night. Cue the comparisons.

"I'm not Chris Bosh," Davis said confidently. "I don't want to be the next Chris Bosh. I just want to be myself."

Clark, 22, wasn't as direct when asked about the void left by Stoudemire.

"I know I have to take a step up," Clark said. "That's not a problem. Those are big shoes to fill. I don't really know my role on the team as of right now, but I'm just trying to prepare myself and get better and continue to grow as a player."

The early returns for Clark two games into NBA Summer League are uneven at best. After playing sparingly as a rookie, the 6-foot-10 former first-rounder arrived out of shape despite knowing he was taking on a featured role. He's averaged 14.5 points, but is shooting just 32.1 percent and averaging just 4.0 rebounds.

That wasn't exactly what the Phoenix coaching staff wanted to see.

"He's struggling a little bit," Suns assistant/summer coach Dan Majerle said. "That happens in Summer League. He wants to come out and play real well. He may be pressing a bit. I'm not sure if he's in the greatest shape possible, but he's a good player.

"He's very talented and he's got to figure it out, and he will. He didn't get a lot of playing time last year. He's got to figure out to not only make himself better, but his teammates better. He has the tools, but he hasn't figured it out yet."

Davis, the 13th pick out of North Carolina, was solid in his debut with 15 points (7-of-11 shooting) and eight boards against Phoenix. While Raptors coach Jay Triano isn't sure exactly what's in store for the son of former NBA player Terry Davis this season, the slate is clean north of the border.

"He's going to have an opportunity to get minutes as a young player," Triano said. "That's how we developed Amir [Johnson]. We put him out there, put him in the starting lineup and let him develop a little bit. I don't know if we'll do the exact same thing with Ed, but he'll definitely get minutes. That's the best way to develop players."

Clark and Davis have the luxury of managed expectations. Unlike the dynamic talents who formerly manned the "4" for their respective franchises, neither the Suns nor Raptors are built around these young forwards. They'll have the opportunity to grow, while not being babied.

Clark's situation does appear more urgent. The Suns added Hakim Warrick and re-signed Channing Frye. While both are ahead of Clark on the depth chart, replacing Stoudemire won't be a one-man job. Clark also could be pushed by second-round pick Gani Lawal, one of the early Summer League standouts.

The challenge for Clark is showcasing his ability to handle the ball, make decisions in the open court, guard multiple positions and score inside. He's also being counted on to fill the "energy" role occupied by Lou Amundson, who's likely also walking in free agency.

"He'll define his own role," Majerle said of Clark. "If he plays well, he'll play. If he doesn't, [coach Alvin Gentry] won't play him. That's up to him. He's a young kid. He's got to keep maturing off the floor, on the floor, reading plays and not only make his shots, but making his teammates better."

Sounds like a tall task.

"I'm trying to show myself things," Clark said. "I can do so much on the court. It's just putting it together and knowing when to use it."

Johnson is likely to getting the starting nod with the Raptors after inking a $34 million deal, even if many are labeling the 21-year-old Davis the eventual heir apparent to Bosh.

"A lot of people knew he was leaving, but I didn't get into that," Davis said. "I really wanted to play with him, learn from him, but he's gotta do what's best for him and he moved on. You can't dwell on the past."

Not with the future ahead.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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