The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fifth consecutive game last night, a fierce comeback that fell short against the San Antonio Spurs, 105-108. The Lakers have been struggling this year, with many people pointing to the team's age as a determining factor in their poor performance. Those with any faith left in the Lakers are saying they need a youth movement, and head coach Mike D'Antoni is going to have to get valuable minutes from his bench.
Enter former Louisville Cardinal, Earl Clark.
You may remember Clark as a talented forward who sort of came out of nowhere to be a star for Louisville in his junior season back in 2008-09. Really, his emergence started in the 2007-08 NCAA Tournament, but he decided to return for a third season to improve his draft stock - which he did.
Earl Clark, along with senior point-forward Terrence Williams, led Louisville to a stellar 31-6 season, including the Big East Conference championship and the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. That team would make it to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State (the Spartans would go on to lose the National Championship game against North Carolina).
Clark was the #14 overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the final pick of the lottery, by the Phoenix Suns. Clark went three spots behind teammate Terrence Williams, who went 11th overall to the Nets.
Clark didn't see a lot of time for Phoenix, and in 2010 was traded to the Orlando Magic as part of Phoenix's deal to acquire Vince Carter. Clark would again see limited action, and was eventually shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Dwight Howard deal this past August.
There, again, he'd sit; this is, until the last couple weeks.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, and Clark set new career highs in points scored, 22, and rebounds, 13, coming off of the Lakers' bench. He played 28 minutes, went 9-for-12 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from the charity stripe and a three-pointer. 11 of his 22 points came during the Lakers' 4th quarter comeback; he and Kobe Bryant would both miss three point attempts in the final three seconds that would have sent the game to overtime.
The next question simply becomes - does D'Antoni continue to give Clark significant minutes for the struggling Lakers? His energy brought a lot to the floor for the sliding team in the 4th quarter last night. It's an interesting development that Cardinal fans will have to watch - it's been a while since we've seen a former Louisville star make a serious contribution to an NBA team.
The Lakers' next game is tomorrow (Friday) night, at home, hosting the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder. You can catch that game at 10:30PM on ESPN, and see if Clark continues to stay involved in the evolving Lakers' offense.
Good luck, Earl!