Earl Clark Needs to Step Up as Injuries Hamper Los Angeles Lakers' Frontcourt

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2013

Lakers F Earl Clark
Lakers F Earl ClarkUSA TODAY Sports

Opportunity is knocking on the door of Los Angeles Lakers forward Earl Clark.

The Lakers' frontcourt is resembling a MASH unit at the moment. Dwight Howard is out and hasn't looked 100 percent at any point this season, and he joins Pau Gasol, who is also out.

Then today, Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported that Jordan Hill could be out for the rest of the season with a hip injury.

With all these injuries, it's imperative that the remaining frontcourt players take their games to another level, Clark in particular.

He had a very good performance Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a result of so many players being out, Clark cracked the starting five.

Prior to the Thunder game, he had only started one game in his five-year career. It was such a monumental occasion, the official Lakers Twitter feed posted a picture of him warming up before the game:

Tonight's starting PF Earl Clark getting shots up 90 minutes before tip. #GoLakers twitter.com/Lakers/status/…

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 12, 2013

In 37 minutes on the floor, Clark recorded his second consecutive double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He also added three blocks.

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Clark put in a 22-point, 13-rebound effort against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. The previous game he brought down nine boards while adding just five points.

So in his short time playing 20-plus minutes a night, Clark has shown an affinity for crashing the boards. At this point, Mike D'Antoni just needs to ride the hot hand until Clark cools off.

It's unrealistic to expect him to continually put up numbers like that, but fans and the Lakers coaching staff should be expecting Clark to put on solid performances from here on out.

Clark has been a big disappointment ever since being drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 14th overall pick in 2009.

With that draft positioning, it's clear that Clark has some potential. Now it's just a matter of him following through on it.

Although he's 6'10", Clark has very good athleticism and can use his long arms very well in defending. He can challenge shots in the post and rebound very well.

He is never going to get a better opportunity with which to showcase what he can really do.

Even when Gasol and Howard were in the lineup, they failed to play up to their ability. While Clark won't supplant either of the two in terms of stats, he has every chance to assert himself into the rotation.

Having Clark play well would almost be like a trade for Los Angeles, considering how little his earlier play was positively affecting the team.

The Lakers have been a thin team all season. In order to get back on track and contend for an NBA title in the event they make the playoffs, the Lakers need to get production from the bench players.