Player Capsule: Earl Clark
When things were looking particularly bleak for the Lakers in early January, a bright light emerged from the end of the bench when Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol went down with injuries.
Lanky forward Earl Clark, seen by many as a throw-in to the Howard trade, impressed when given 20 minutes – almost more than he had played to that point – in a Jan. 8 loss at Houston, grabbing nine boards to go with five points and three assists. On the following night at San Antonio, the man they call "Eazy" exploded.
In 27 minutes of action, Clark went off for career highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds, plus three assists on 9 of 12 shooting.
The Lakers lost both games minus their top two bigs, but coach Mike D'Antoni found something in Clark, who ended up starting 36 games and playing in 59 towards averages of 7.3 rebounds and 5.5 rebounds on 44.0 percent field goals. His defense was strong on the ball, as he continued to learn the concepts of the coaching staff in terms of team defense.
It was in January and February that Clark peaked, when he averaged around 10 points and eight boards in 30 minutes, before his play tapered off in March and April.
Gasol's March return from a lengthy absence coincided with Clark hitting a bit of a wall, the New Jersey native and Louisville product having never played so many minutes in his five-year career. Clark saw his production slip to 5.5 points and 4.7 boards in March on just 35.4 percent shooting (5.5/3.5 in April), his playing time reduced to around 22 minutes a night. Clark was also quiet in L.A.'s four postseason games, averaging 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per contest.
Clark grew up playing point guard before a huge growth spurt in high school boosted him up to 6-10, and the additional inches didn't make him forget his handle. A free agent, Clark said he's focused on getting stronger in the offseason so he's better able to guard NBA power forwards next season. He's comfortable playing on the perimeter, but would like to add some low post moves as well.
Will he be in Los Angeles?
“I want to be a Laker," he said at his exit interview. "Had an opportunity to show what I can do. If we have a training camp, we can show what we can do. Hope everything works out.”
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