The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the fifth-straight time on Wednesday night, this time to the San Antonio Spurs, but after the game Kobe Bryant gushed about the performance of Earl Clark. The fourth-year forward from Louisville stepped up against the Spurs and posted a season-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes of action, and Kobe was particularly impressed (via NBA.com):
"He was phenomenal tonight. He sits right next to me on plane rides so I talk to him and he always tells me that he is ready to play and he definitely was tonight. He played phenomenal against a heck of a team with some great forwards so I was very impressed."
Clark has been anything but phenomenal during his time in the NBA -- he has averaged 3.1 points on 39.6 percent shooting in the NBA since being selected No. 14 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft -- but he did make his mark on the game with some impressive pick-and-pop plays, off-the-dribble moves and strong rebounds. Even head coach Mike D'Antoni felt a bit optimistic after the game, saying "[h]opefully we found something there." Then again, the Lakers are desperate for a spark and they might say anything to avoid more questions about their dysfunctional core. Earl Clark is no savior for this squad.
The 6'10 big man has bounced around the league a bit since he was drafted. He was drafted by the Suns, traded to the Orlando Magic and then shipped to the Lakers as part of the four-team Dwight Howard deal. This season Clark has averaged 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds over 7.1 minutes-per-game, so the reasonable upshot of his recent production would be a firm spot on the back end of the Lakers' rotation.
In any case, expect to see a lot of serious Earl Clark tweets from Lakers fans, and a companion wave of hyperbolic parody tweets from other fans around the league. It should be fun to watch the #FreeEarlClark movement develop.
Here's a look at his recent performance against the Spurs: