Lawal Impresses as Suns Get Blasted by Rockets

Clark's versatility allows him to play a couple positions for the Suns.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
Stefan Swiat,
Posted: July 9, 2010

Although it’s 106 degrees outside in Las Vegas, the Suns’ shooting didn’t match the weather in the first game of the NBA Las Vegas Summer League.

Although the Suns were the hottest shooting team in the league during the regular season, the iron was unkind to them on Friday against the Rockets. Shooting just 40 percent from the floor, the Suns never seemed to get into a groove offensively in a 100-82 defeat to Houston.

“I thought that they played hard but they just got tired in the fourth quarter,” Suns Summer League Head Coach Dan Majerle said. “We didn’t shoot the ball real well. but that’s how this is. These guys haven’t been together very long and they don’t know what each other do well yet.”

With the roster of summer league players only practicing two days together, such an outcome could have been predicted. Whereas the Suns of the regular season are a well-oiled offensive machine run by Steve Nash, the summer team’s starting point guard, Zabian Dowdell, is more of a score-first guard that looks to pressure defenses with his own shot.

But Dowdell, who was able to get himself going with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, couldn’t seem to get anyone else into a rhythm. Second-year forward Earl Clark, shot just 4-of-14 to finish with 14 points.

However, Clark showed flashes of why the Suns nabbed him with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 Draft. The former McDonald’s All-American converted on a nifty left-handed lay-up earlier in the game that earned him both the hoop and the harm.

Finishing with his off hand is one of the main areas of his game that Clark has been focusing on developing. Since the season concluded, he has traveled to Miami to work out with teammate Jared Dudley and former teammate Amar’e Stouemire, as well as to Atlanta for more workouts.

“He has to get into better shape and he has to just learn how to play,” Majerle said about Clark. “He can’t be a guy that goes one-on-one looking for his own shot, he has to make everyone else around him (better). Which he can do because he’s that type of player.

“But Earl is going to be good. He’s one of those guys at 6-9 that really handles the ball well, has good awareness and knows how to pass.”

Clark, who has demonstrated the ability to play both the small forward and power forward positions, insists that he’ll play either if that’s what it takes to earn him more minutes. However, he admits he's more familiar with the plays as a power forward.

“You can’t worry about yourself,” Clark said. “You have to worry what’s best with the team.”

Clark said that at the end of the season, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry gave him some important advice.

“He said he’s going to need me this year as long as I play hard, rebound and run the floor,” Clark said.

Maybe the brightest spot in the day was the play of second-round draft pick Gani Lawal. The 6-9 power forward out of Georgia Tech displayed startling athleticism that seamlessly combined with his tireless work ethic.

Lawal possesses many of the same abilities as Louis Amundson. In fact, when he was asked who impressed him the most out of his teammates, Clark responded quickly that Lawal was his man.

“Gani runs the floor excellent, he plays hard, rebounds and is just a hard-nosed kid,” Clark said.

Lawal finished the contest with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds, two blocks and two monstrous dunks.

“He’s just going to get better and better as he learns how to play in this league,” Majerle said. “He’s tough, he plays extremely hard, he finishes well around the basket, he’s relentless on the boards and he gives a lot of effort. He’s going to real to be a real good player so I was happy with what he did.”

Lawal believes that his effort can be an asset for the Suns.

“I just try to play hard and compete and rebound and do the dirty work that nobody wants to do,” he said. “Come in and bring energy off the bench, rebound, play strong physical defense, go out and get garbage points and do the little things.”

We’ll see if he can duplicate today’s effort when the Suns square off against the Raptors at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.