Savage: Earl Clark Starting to Emerge

By Dan Savage
January 8, 2010

ORLANDO -- With all the big names involved in the Orlando Magic’s recent blockbuster deals, it’s no surprise that Earl Clark was overlooked at the time of the trades.

He was referred to as a toss-in and an extra piece. If it was baseball, he may have even been granted the dubious title of a “player to be named later.”

But after 10 games as a member of the Magic, Clark is starting to garnish some attention as a gifted offensive power forward and future quality defender.

With Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson in early foul trouble against the Rockets on Friday, the second-year player out of Louisville stepped up to the plate and delivered a spark.

Clark knocked down four of his eight attempts from the floor on his way to eight points in just under 18 minutes of action. He also managed to collect four rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal.

“I just try to stay ready,” Clark explained. “I know this can happen any game and that’s what your mindset has to be. Whenever I get called to play, I want to be ready.”

The Magic liked Clark enough prior to the 2009 NBA Draft that they considered finding a way to select him. Although that didn’t work out, the franchise is more than happy he’s now part of the team.

That’s because Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy sees a lot of future potential in the gifted forward.

“I think that Earl is going to be a really good player,” Van Gundy explained. “I think that offensively he is very talented. He’s quick, he can shoot the ball and he can put it on the floor.”

What’s also impressed the Magic’s head coach is Clark’s dedication.

He’s often the first player in for practice and he also comes in to work out and put up shots even on off days.

“I’ve always been a hard worker,” said Clark. “That’s what got me here.”

Dan Savage

For a 22-year-old, Clark has an extremely mature outlook. And with his wise words, it could be easy to mistake him for an NBA veteran.

“If you’re not playing a lot, you have to stay ready,” he explained. “In the NBA, you can get lost real fast and if you’re out of shape, even faster.”

Clark admits he’s still making a lot of mistakes out on the court. But he credits his teammates for remaining patient with him and giving him a lot of advice.

He’s sought out Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass, the two other power forwards on the squad, to find out how they adjusted to Van Gundy’s defensive schemes.

He’s also received plenty of tips from Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard, who sees a bright future for the young player.

“I think once Earl understands the offense and the defense, he’s going to play a major role on this team,” Howard said. “But right now, the energy and effort he’s bringing on both ends, he’s playing hard. The more he plays, the better he’ll be.”

And that’s why Clark will end up being more than just an add-in body to a blockbuster trade.

Follow Dan Savage on Twitter here