Neither Mike D'Antoni nor Mike Brown gave Earl Clark much of an opportunity to play this season. The young forward came over in the Dwight Howard trade over the summer; an extra body to make a complicated deal work.
Before injuries sidelined Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip), Clark played in just 10 games for a total of 36 minutes this season. That includes an appearance against the Denver Nuggets where he shot free throws for an injured Gasol, scoring two points in "zero" minutes.
Clark calmly hit a crucial pair at the line but the Lakers weren't able to get the win against Denver.
The following night Clark was needed for 21 minutes against the Houston Rockets, scoring five points and grabbing nine rebounds, and making a minor impression with an energetic performance.
Clark had a breakthrough night on Wednesday, playing 27½ minutes against the San Antonio Spurs. Clark had career highs with 22 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 9 of 12 from the field.
He also nailed a crucial three-pointer to cut a late six-point Spurs lead in half. In a scramble as time ran out, Clark got a look at a game-tying three pointer but it just didn't drop and San Antonio held on for a 108-105 win.
D'Antoni called Clark's performance "phenomenal," saying the forward had certainly earned more of a look in the rotation.
The Lakers desperately need athleticism, energy and mobility at the power forward position. Additionally, Clark showed touch on his face-up jumper, a necessary tool for a forward playing alongside Howard (upon his return).
It remains to be seen if Clark can duplicate his performance against the Spurs. Last season Hill didn't get much of a chance to play for the Lakers before a big game against the Oklahoma City Thunder led to a regular spot in the rotation.
Clark is in the final year of his contract, earning $1.24 million this season.
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