What Does Earl Clark’s Emergence Mean For The Lakers, Pau Gasol?
Final Thought On Clark
While it was just one game that could have been a fluke, it may be more than that. Clark had been waiting in the wings for his turn, finally got his chance, and proved himself. Players with that type of personality are exactly the type any team should be happy to have.
While he may not give the Lakers 22 points and 13 rebounds each game, if he plays with the same effort and urgency he played with on Wednesday night, he definitely deserves some minutes and may even deserve to start. Clark took every possession he got offensively and made the absolute most of it. He didn’t hold back anything, and attacked the Spurs at every chance he could; while playing solid defense and showing hustle as well.
He may have taken just 10 three-pointers in his whole career prior to Wednesday night, but he confidently knocked down a late-game triple with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the same floor.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Clark’s game on Wednesday was the fact that he hurt the Spurs from all areas of the floor–from cuts into the lane, from distance, and from the mid-range area.
Couple that with his relative athleticism compared with his teammates, and he could be exactly the type of player Mike D’Antoni has been searching for at that position while trying to find a combination of qualities between that of Jordan Hill (defense, rebounds, the ability to play off-ball, youth); Antawn Jamison (spread the floor, drive into the lane); and Pau Gasol (length). He won’t get Gasol’s other elite abilities, but maybe he (D’Antoni) can utilize all of Clark’s abilities to his maximum productivity and potential.
While Clark may never be able to turn into a scorer on the floor, or even be known as a lock-down defender or play-maker, sometimes playing with highly talented players maximizes an average or below-average player’s abilities and raw talent, and creates better overall team chemistry and production.
This appears to be what happened to Clark on Wednesday night.
He’s a low-maintenance player–meaning he needs no plays called for him–and that could be exactly what the Lakers need in a starting lineup filled with players who all need touches to be effective.
I’m not comparing Gasol or his abilities to Luke Walton or his by any stretch of the imagination, but remember when the Lakers chose to start Trevor Ariza over Walton? Walton was by far a more intelligent basketball player and play-maker, but was much slower and was playing alongside other intelligent players (Gasol and Bryant).
Although Ariza wasn’t as polished offensively as Walton (don’t kill me for saying Luke was polished, but he had a decent shot, could somewhat dribble, and even posted up from time to time), his athleticism, versatility, and defensive abilities (relatively raw talents) far outweighed what Luke brought to the table; and his sole focus on cutting to the basket and shooting, while not thinking out the game, benefited the Lakers exponentially. Gasol, unlike Walton, can and must still have an extremely important role on this team, however.
Not to take anything away from Pau Gasol or any of the other Lakers, but Clark’s manner of play and youth are what the Lakers need to begin games with and set a tone. If Earl Clark can play with the energy and heart he played with on Wednesday night, he is exactly what the Lakers need at the beginning of ball games–not just at the end of them.
In my opinion, there is absolutely no question if Earl Clark should or shouldn’t start against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. He should. He’s earned himself some playing time, the Lakers are extremely thin on the front line due to injury, and he could potentially match up extremely well against Kevin Durant. He may get eaten alive guarding him (Durant), but Clark at least deserves the confidence and trust from his coach to have a chance at building on the performance he showcased against the Spurs.
Maybe it was all a fluke and Clark will be a complete dud or perhaps all he did was guarantee himself consideration as a role player in certain matchups down the line, but with the Lakers in the position they’re currently in, they owe it to Earl Clark and themselves to start the young forward or at least give him significant minutes on Friday night.
Who knows, maybe it’ll be the start of something big.