Lakers F Earl Clark
Clark scored 12 points and recorded eight rebounds and two blocks.
Even with the return of Pau Gasol, Mike D'Antoni has committed to featuring Clark more, as SportsCenter posted on Twitter:
Mike D'Antoni says Pau Gasol will come off the bench for the Lakers moving forward. Earl Clark will take over as LA's starting PF.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 22, 2013
That was after Clark's strong performance against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. He recorded a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He came off the bench to play about 36 minutes that night.
Clark has been one of the few good things for the Lakers this season.
When Gasol went down, Clark stepped up in a big way. At this point, he has made the Spanish big man expendable for Los Angeles.
The trade rumors regarding Gasol have been an ongoing saga the entire season. At this point, it might be better if the two sides simply parted ways for good.
Neither party seems very happy at the moment, and the constant speculation has just added more drama to a team that has been full of it since the season started.
Before, it would have been a significant hit for the team. Gasol is one of the most skilled big men in the league. Now with Clark, the team has a ready-made replacement.
Gasol came off the bench in the loss to the Bulls. He had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. It could be a nice strategy for D'Antoni, but it's doubtful that Gasol will be content staying out of the starting five.
Clark has the size and ability to maintain a steady presence on the team. Right now, the Lakers need the kind of consistency that he can bring.
In addition, there's only one ball that can go around. He will gladly defer to the veterans on the court, thus avoiding any sort of controversy over who will be the focal points of the offense.
He's one of the hardest workers during the games, as Clark can't afford to take any of the games for granted. With so many stars around, his margin for error is so small.
His youth is also a big bonus for the team. The Lakers can only ride Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant for so long before age starts to catch up with them.
At this point, Los Angeles doesn't need another big name to help try to right the ship. Clark is a perfect fit in the starting lineup.