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Lakers Rumors: LA Smart to Turn to Earl Clark to Help Recharge Depleted Roster

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2014

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
USA TODAY Sports

The rebuild in Los Angeles has its eyes set on the NBA D-League.

For a four-win Lakers team, that is not a bad thing.

A new approach to building the roster (as opposed to the instant gratification of the past) has backfired as a young roster continues to struggle with injuries, chemistry and efficiency. Steve Nash is gone for the year, and promising youngsters Julius Randle and Xavier Henry will also miss the season. Ryan Kelly is also out due to an injury.

But in an effort to keep rebuilding with youth, Mitch Kupchak and the front office seem to have eyes for Earl Clark, who currently suits up for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News broke down the situation:

The Lakers have had 'talks' to sign forward Earl Clark this week, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. The deal is not finalized, but it’s believed to be a one-year deal worth $1 million. The Lakers could either wait until the NBA approves hardship exception to finish that deal. Or the Lakers could waive Henry, who is owed a guaranteed $1.1 million. 

Signing Clark is a smooth move for a number of reasons. He has experience with the organization already, having appeared in a career-high 59 games with the Lakers a few years ago. He is also a stretch 4 who can play in place of Kelly or come off the bench and provide a spark. Adding Clark to the roster makes sense from a strategic standpoint.

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While it is true Clark will be 27 years old in January, there is little reason to split hairs over a number—Clark is a young player with plenty of upside and room to grow with the Lakers over the course of the next several years.

He can help bring along the roster in that span if the organization so chooses to play it that way, which in time means it has itself a chiseled veteran to contribute off the bench.

By the sounds of an interview in November, Clark seems to prefer the role he had with Los Angeles above all else, as captured by Dennis Silva II of The Monitor.

I made 3s in L.A., proved myself as a stretch guy. I go to Cleveland and all they want me to do is shoot 3s. When I’m in Orlando, I’m told don’t shoot the ball, just play defense. It’s tough for me. I’ve gotten into this tweener thing because I’ve gone from coaches who really don’t know how to use me.

Clark has already taken to Instagram to picture himself in the familiar colors:

From a statistical standpoint, Clark was his best with the Lakers:

SEASONGPFG%3P%REBASTBLKPTS
'09-'1051.371.4001.20.40.32.7
'10-'1133.441.0002.50.20.54.1
'10-'119.387.0001.90.40.33.2
'11-'1245.367.0002.80.40.72.7
'12-'1359.440.3375.51.10.77.3
'13-'1445.375.3452.80.40.45.2
'13-'149.333.1671.80.20.72.6
ESPN

Those numbers are proof enough that Clark will be an asset to the team once again. 

This time, though, the role is a bit different. There is no role as a complementary piece to Nash and Dwight Howard now. Instead, there is a role as a bit of a mentor on a miserable team where the task at hand is to space the floor and allow younger guys to go to work and develop. 

In that sense, Clark's signing is a massive achievement. 

Nov 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Earl Clark (6) during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Cavaliers 94-79. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Think about it. How else can the Lakers even acquire notable talent at this point? Jordan Hill cannot be moved until January. Nick Young and Ed Davis are locked in until mid-December. Carlos Boozer cannot be moved. There is essentially no draft pick. Nobody would want Jeremy Lin's contract.

So the D-League it is. It just so happens to be that there is Clark, a familiar, recognizable face young enough to be an attractive sell and equipped with a skill set to complement a budding roster.

The potential inking of Clark is not a move that will turn things around in the short term. There are no playoffs. Fans should not overload websites to purchase jerseys.

But as the interest in Clark shows, the Lakers are not in the business of instant gratification any longer.

For this year, at least.

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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