This is the eighth in a series grading the Lakers’ efforts on the 2012-13 season.
Player: Earl Clark, Lakers forward
How he performed: Averaged a career-high 7.3 points on 44 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds through 23.1 minutes in 59 regular-season games, including 36 as a starter; Averaged 3.5 points on 36.8 percent shooting and 3 rebounds through 20.5 minutes in four playoff games.
The Good: So much for the Lakers initially considering Clark no more than just a throw-in involving the trade that brought them Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. Clark emerged as a surprisingly reliable stretch forward that provided plenty of energy, length and an occasional jumper. Clark may not have received such a chance if not for injuries to Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (regular season-ending left hip injury). But Clark’s season-high 20 minutes against Houston on Jan. 8 soon morphed into career-highs in points (22) and rebounds (13) the next day against San Antonio. Even when Gasol returned, D’Antoni granted Clark the starting spot after because of his preference for a smaller lineup.
Clark took advantage of that opportunity. He posted 11 double doubles. Clark made a key basket in a win Jan. against New Orleans. He scored on a lob with .04 seconds left before the first half in a win Feb. against Detroit. And in two must-win games in April against Memphis and Dallas, Clark averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and three blocks.
The Bad: Clark eventually hit a way for a variety of reasons. Opposing teams paid attention to him more. Clark acknowledged he felt worn out after playing so many minutes in January and February. The Lakers’ coaching staff also sensed that Clark overly relied on his hustle and not enough on actually knowing the team’s offense. That’s why it’s hardly surprising that Clark posted these numbers March (5.5 points on 35.4 percent shooting and 4.7 rebounds) and April (6.5 points on 43.2 percent shooting and 3.5 rebounds). That marks a steep dropoff from his production in January (10.3 points on 49.6 percent shooting and 8.4 rebounds) and February (10.9 points on 45.4 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds). Clark also didn’t perform well in the playoffs, averaging only 3.5 points on 36.8 percent shooting and 3 rebounds through 20.5 minutes against the Spurs.
Grade:A-. Clark has plenty to improve on his game. He can bulk up so he defend stronger players better. Clark’s shooting stroke needs more consistency. He has to channel his energy into knowing more of the offensive concepts. But considering he had nondescript stints in Phoenix (2009-11) and Orlando (2011-12), Clark still made the most of his opportunity.
Clark, who made $1.2 million this season, has said he wants to return to the Lakers even if it’s for a similar asking price. The Lakers would like him back too considering they’re in need of younger and cheap talent. But they trying to avoid securing players to multi-year deals so they can maximize financial flexibility for the 2014 offseason, coinciding with a flurry of big-name free agents and more punitive tax penalties stemmed from the two-year-old labor deal.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org