Feb 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Earl Clark (6) dunks during the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Rise of Earl Clark

The Lakers season has been filled with drama, whether it be injuries, barely being in playoff contention, or where Dwight Howard will wind up after the season. One of the lone bright spots this season has been the rise of Earl Clark. On his third team in his fourth year in the league, people were saying Clark was just a throwaway in the Dwight Howard trade. In what has been a tumultuous season for the Lakers, Earl Clark has been one of the lone bright spots.

Having never played more than 12 and a half minutes a game, Clark has found himself playing 23 minutes a game, and even starting 33 because of all the injuries. He has made good use of those minutes. Earl has set career highs in almost every statistical category. He’s averaging more points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He also has a higher field goal percentage (44.4%). The only major drop he’s had this season is his free throw percentage. He went from shooting 72%, to shooting 67%. His decrease in free throw percentage may be because he has shot more, and we are seeing he really isn’t that great of a free throw shooter.

There is one thing that scares me about Earl Clark. All of his success may be a product of Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni has been known to get the best out of stretch fours. Earl Clark is one of those players who you aren’t quite sure what position he plays. He can be a big small forward, or he can be a stretch four. In D’Antoni’s system, he has thrived off of being a stretch four.

Earl will demand a higher paying contract than he has right now ($1.24 million), maybe upwards of $5 million, so hopefully the Lakers will pay him. He has been quoted saying “The organization and style of play fits me. I really want to stay here.” Sign him right now, please.

The ball is in the Lakers court with Clark. Will the Lakers pay him the money he wants? That’s unknown for now. I hope they keep him, and I’m sure Mike D’Antoni does too. The Lakers will need Clark for depth, especially if they amnesty Metta World Peace. He’s only 25. If the Lakers are serious about keeping D’Antoni, they should resign Clark and let him grow in D’Antoni’s system.

Earl Clark finally got out of the slump he had been in with a 17 point, 12 rebound, 5 block game last night against the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers are going to need him to play big minutes with the injury to Metta and the playoff race the Lakers currently find themselves in.

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