For most of this season, Earl Clark was an unknown player at the end of the Lakers’ bench. The fourth year forward out of Louisville played a total of 36 minutes in the first 30 games on the season.
Against Brooklyn on Tuesday, Clark played 41.
To say he has gone from a throw-in in the Dwight Howard trade to the best aspect of said trade would not be a gross overstatement. In fact, it may not even be an over statement at all.
Whenever this team has needed help most, Earl Clark has come to the rescue. He has even earned the nickname “Clark Knight” in some circles.
It makes sense: he’s not the hero the Lakers want, but he’s the hero the Lakers need.
He rebounds, he plays defense, he works hard, and he’s hungry.
No, Earl Clark is so much more than that.
“I think I’m just a basketball player,” Clark described his game before he was a household name in Los Angeles. “I can do a lot of things out there. I have all around game. I think I’m dangerous when the jumper’s falling. I think I could defend a lot of guys out there. I’m just having fun, man, just playing basketball.”
With Howard missing the last three games in a row, Clark has averaged 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. Most importantly, Clark contributed on a consistent enough level to get the Lakers three wins.
He was good for a double-double in each of those wins.
It should be no surprise that Clark performs when the Lakers look most vulnerable. The New Jersey native emerged when the Lakers were without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol last time around. It was not so long ago.
All the way back in early January, Howard was freshly diagnosed with a torn labrum, and Gasol suffered a crushing concussion.
The first game without both twin towers, Clark showed some promise, but he did not truly earn recognition until San Antonio. He threw up 22 points and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes against the Spurs. It was Clark’s first double-double with LA and only the second of his four-year career.
Fast forward 15 games and Earl Clark has recorded double-doubles in four of the last five games.
A doomed team that was on a three-game losing streak, missing its top three front court players, and three games below .500, the Lakers rolled the dice on number six and won some hope.
The Lakers are not so different these days.
On Thursday, the Lakers potentially face the Boston Celtics without those same three front court players and still sit three games below .500. This time, though, Clark has helped the Lakers to a three-game winning streak entering Thursday’s contest in Boston.
If Howard, a game-time decision, cannot go against the Celtics, Clark may even play center.
Why not? The guy almost no one had heard of until a month ago is now the guy the Lakers are relying on with Gasol out indefinitely.
Earl Rashad Clark, just call him “hope.”