Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike DAntoni decided to start power forward Earl Clark over All-Star Pau Gasol in Monday nights 95-83 loss to the Bulls.
Clark has become a breath of fresh air for this seemingly struggling group. Even in Sunday nights loss to the Raptors, Clark performed well, going 6-of-10 from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
Earl, who has played well, will play and it gives us a little bit more bounce to our step. We are a bit quicker team and hopefully that will help us, DAntoni said.
Looking back, Clark has come a long way from his playing days in Orlando, where he didnt see the court much, let alone start over one of the best players in the league.
Clark, who only started one game in two seasons with the Magic, has already exceeded that number by four in his first season with the Lakers.
Monday was a huge night for Clark, not primarily in statistics, but more on how hard work and effort goes a long way in the scheme of things. Clark has been working hard the past few weeks and feels honored to fill shoes as big as Gasol.
It was cool, you know. Coach gave me the position, Ive been working for it since Ive been in the NBA and Im just honored that he is putting trust in me to start because Pau is great player and a Hall of Famer and I feel honored, Clark said.
I think by the way Ive been playing these last couple of games and showing that I can spread the floor and help Dwight, clear up the middle. With Pau out there, it is difficult when they both want to post up and thats not how he wants to play, so I think that helped me out a lot."
Some may be puzzled by this switch in the lineup, putting Clark at the four and Howard at the five, but DAntoni believes this is the best move and will even provide a boost for Gasols game.
I mean, I think that helps, but I think it also put Pau in his natural position, DAntoni said. He is one of the best centers in the league and weve had him out of position and no matter how well we play together, it just wasnt producing. I mean, right now, were better when are small.
As the game progressed, Gasol returned to play normal minutes but was not sour about coming off the bench, according to DAntoni.
I talked to him about it and he understands where we have to go. Weve got to do it and hes going to come in off the bench at the five primarily and if we can sneak some minutes in with them both in, then good. If we cant, we cant but we just have to do that.
Gasol, who finished with a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, showed even coming off the bench wouldnt stop him from performing to his All-Star ability.
He has seemingly embraced this new role, though whether its temporary or permanent has yet to be decided.
I mean I cant see the future but we are ready to go forward like this, DAntoni stated.
Clark, who concluded the game with 12 points and eight rebounds, is hopeful about continuing as a starter. His plan to stay in the starting lineup is straight forward and takes full advantage of his ability to rebound and defend at all positions.
Continue to hit open shots and play my game and dont be timid out there, just be aggressive and defend and rebound," Clark said.
Knowing DAntonis style of play of fast-paced, up and down basketball, Clark feels strong about his skills fitting perfectly into the game plan.
Just because he likes to get out and run, spread the floor and just be versatile. You know he likes basketball players, he doesnt really like players with positions so you know get out pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop and put me at different positions like the three and four and also to guard different people.
It seems like Clark fits this description seamlessly.