Pau Gasol's Injury Finally Gives Earl Clark a Chance to Shine

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2013

Jan 9, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Earl Clark (6) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (22) during the second half at the AT&T Center. The Spurs won 108-105. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fifth game in a row on Wednesday night, but they may have found a spark that was previously buried on their bench. Earl Clark played the best game of his career, and his performance is something to build on.

He is only 24 years old, and this could be his best opportunity to live up to the promise that made him the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

I wondered when—or if ever—he would get a shot to contribute in Los Angeles. On Wednesday night, he got his chance and he made the most of it.

Because of the team's multiple injuries in the frontcourt—namely the concussion to Pau Gasol—the Lakers were forced to go deep into their bench for minutes.

Even though they lost 108-105, this was one of the best efforts the team has produced.

Clark's strong play keyed a comeback attempt that fell just short against the San Antonio Spurs.

The versatile 6'10" forward scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting; he made a three-point shot, grabbed 13 rebounds and recorded four assists. Pardon me, but doesn't that sound a lot like an old Lamar Odom stat line?

The skill set is definitely similar, and the Lakers would be nuts not to give Clark more playing time moving forward. For once, Mike D'Antoni and I agree:

D’Antoni: “Earl Clark was phenomenal … he deserves (a shot to enter the rotation when other bigs return).”

— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 10, 2013

If he sticks in the rotation, this would be one of the few times in his career he's seen double-figure minutes for an extended stretch of games. Clark has only played 10 minutes in five consecutive games or more two other times since he turned pro.

I wrote in a previous article that the Lakers should move Gasol to the bench when he returns.

Clark's play only reinforces my belief in the concept. My original thinking was based on allowing Gasol to be the No. 1 option amongst the reserves, thereby giving Dwight Howard full reign of the paint with the starters.

Gasol's presence on the second unit will add a much needed scoring punch to a Lakers' bench that scores only 26.2 points per night. Only four teams in the NBA get less from their bench.

Now, if you add Clark to that mix, a bench that includes Chris Duhon/Darius Morris, Jodie Meeks, Clark, Antawn Jamison and Gasol looks a lot better.

There is obviously more scoring, but most importantly, it could energize both the starters and reserves.

If the Lakers take this route, Clark and Gasol's new roles could key a resurgence.



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