Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has taken a lot of criticism for not adjusting his system to fit his personnel. Now, it appears he may not have to because he’s finally found a player that suits his system perfectly in Earl Clark.
The Lakers have struggled mightily in 2012-13, but the play of Earl Clark as a power forward who can stretch the floor and knock down the 3-pointer consistently is fueling a resurgence by the purple and gold. L.A. has won seven of their last nine games, despite playing their last six on the road, where they have been especially bad with a 9-17 record.
D’Antoni told Sports Out West last month that he doesn’t have a system, but whatever the Lakers are running is working better with a prototypical four man as a starter after Pau Gasol was phased out before suffering a tear of his plantar fascia. Clark has looked like the next NBA player to make a name for himself simply by being given an opportunity since then.
He averaged 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in his first 19 appearances for the Lakers. During a 6-1 stretch prior to an ugly 116-95 loss to the Boston Celtics on Feb. 7, he averaged 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and added four double-doubles.
More importantly, he’s shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line this season and is giving D’Antoni more reasons to play him late in close games with the ability to keep defenses honest and bring better floor balance. In D’Antoni’s system, players who can knock down spot-up shots beyond the arc can thrive, and that’s exactly what Clark has done to this point.
The absence of Gasol due to injury is not a positive development for Los Angeles by any means, but it gives Clark more room to develop and D’Antoni more opportunity to feature a player who fits like a glove in his new offense.
It’s a small victory for the Lakers but given the dismal state of the 24-27 season, they’ll take any kind of wins they can get.