PHOENIX — Teammates gave Earl Clark the nickname “Eazy” both for his laid-back demeanor and how he quickly assumed a significant role when the Lakers suffered various injuries.
Clark seems to act in the same manner about his upcoming demotion. It remains unclear when Pau Gasol will return after missing the past 20 games because of a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. But coach Mike D’Antoni plans to start Gasol at power forward once he catches up on his conditioning.
“It’s cool with me, man,” Clark said in a quiet moment. “I just want to play. I never got caught up in starting.”
Clark has started 32 games this season, including six when Gasol came off the bench. But D’Antoni said he’s changed his sentiments because of Gasol’s vast experience as a two-time NBA championship.
The Lakers forward has remained fairly vocal albeit professional about his preference to start.
Part of the thinking also reflects Clark’s recent struggles. He entered the Lakers’ game Monday against Phoenix averaging 7.4 points on 38.6 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds in March. That’s a sharp drop from his numbers in February when he averaged 10.9 points on 45.4 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds per game.
“It’s just how it goes,” Clark said. “You put them up, you make some and miss some. Everybody on the team has been doing it the whole season.”
With his plan to play Gasol and Dwight Howard 16 to 20 minutes together on the floor, D’Antoni said he still plans to feature Clark heavily in the rotation.
“I think I deserve that,” Clark said. “I’ve played well, helped the team win when nobody was playing and everybody was hurt.
“I just want a chance to play this game and show people I can play.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org