Earl Clark making the most of his opportunity with the Lakers


Earl Clark was supposed to be nothing more than an afterthought for the Lakers this season. But a concussion to starting power forward Pau Gasol has opened the door for Clark to contribute, and he’s made more than expected of his opportunity thus far.

Clark was a throw-in as part of the trade that brought Dwight Howard to L.A. from Orlando over the summer, and had been treated like it by the Lakers coaching staff until they absolutely didn’t have a choice. Clark appeared in just 10 of L.A.’s first 33 games this season, and logged single digits in minutes in all but one of those contests.

In the last four games, however, Clark has been pressed into action — primarily due to Gasol’s absence, but also due to Jordan Hill being out for the rest of the season due to a hip injury. Clark hasn’t disappointed, averaging 10.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 blocked shots in 24.2 minutes of action.

Clark has been even more impressive over his last two games, getting the starter’s minutes in place of Gasol, and finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three blocked shots in the Lakers win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, the team’s first in its last seven games.

It isn’t just the numbers that have been impressive about Clark, it’s the way he’s developed into an athletic and intelligent NBA player, seemingly knowing when to pick his spots and playing with the right amount of energy on virtually every possession.

It didn’t always come that easily to Clark, and in fact, he struggled to develop at all in his first season and part of a second while playing for the Suns. Those were winning years in Phoenix, and the team didn’t need any help inside with Amar’e Stoudemire, Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, and Lou Amundson giving them more than enough of an inside presence, especially during Clark’s rookie season that resulted in a run to the Western Conference finals.

Clark’s minutes were limited, and he was being groomed to be more of a pick-and-pop player than he was trained to battle inside. He struggled to come along, and ended up being traded to the Magic as part of the deal that brought Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix the following season.

Alvin Gentry spoke a bit about Clark before Monday night’s game against the Thunder, and more than anything, he seemed happy that Clark was performing while getting his shot.

“I think it’s great to see him take advantage of an opportunity to play,” Gentry said. “He’s done a good job, put up some good numbers, and rebounded the ball well. I think that’s what you have to do. If you get a chance to play and you’re given an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it so that at least it’s in the back of someone’s mind.”

As for Clark coming on after three seasons, Gentry pointed to some other players you might have heard of that took a little time before coming into their own.

“It’s been that way forever in this league,” Gentry said, when asked if some players just need more time to develop than others. “Steve Nash took a little while to develop, too. There’s been other guys that have been OK and then all of a sudden after their second or third years been able to become real solid NBA basketball players. I think you can look at Paul George, he’s been a decent player but all of a sudden now you watch him play and I think you can make a strong argument for him being the most improved player in the league.”

Clark will get at least one more game with heavy minutes as a member of the starting lineup, as Gasol will miss his fifth straight game due to the concussion when the Lakers host the Bucks on Tuesday. He’s likely to remain in the rotation even after Gasol returns, largely due to the way he’s made an impact with the opportunity he’s been given.

Isaiah Thomas rewarded on epic flop with offensive foul call vs. Heat

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Why do NBA players flop on defense? Because it works.

While there is less of it than there was a couple of years back β€” when the NBA made a big show about calling more flops and warning (then eventually fining players a pittance) for the move β€” it still exists. Case in point, this impressive one from Isaiah Thomas of the Lakers on Tyler Johnson of the Heat Friday night (hat tip AminElHassavag at NBA Reddit).

Was there a little contact, sure, but Thomas fell back like he was shot by the second gunman on the grassy knoll. He exaggerated the contact, which is the definition of flopping. Thing is, he got the call (the ref who made the call, from his position, might only have seen the contact and not necessarily the extent of exaggeration, but that’s where the other officials need to step in).

Not that everything went Thomas’ way Friday night.

Suns’ Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley fined $25,000 each for knocking down Ricky Rubio


Marquese Chriss and Jared Dudley got off light.

There should have been suspensions involved for the cheap shots leveled on Ricky Rubio by the pair during Thursday night’s blowout Jazz win. Instead, the pair were fined $25,000 a piece by the league Saturday for this incident.

Rubio has a knee contusion from the incident Jazz coach Quin Snyder confirmed, however, Rubio is available to play Saturday vs. the Kings.

Dudley was given a flagrant 2 and ejected at the time, Chriss was handed just a flagrant 1 for his escalation. I don’t completely buy Dudley’s explanation here either β€” I think they were pissed Rubio stepped over a down Chriss to inbound the ball and made him pay for it β€” but he did own up to it being excessive.

So to be clear, if you throw a haymaker and miss β€” as Aaron Afflalo did recently β€” that’s a two-game suspension. But if you throw or body check a player to the ground, that’s just 25 large, no time missed. Players wanting retaliation will take note of that.

Roulette tables are less random than the NBA’s enforcement policies.

Check out Terrance Ferguson’s acrobatic layup vs. Clippers (VIDEO)


It was supposed to be an alley-oop.

However, Raymond Felton‘s pass was low. And not just a little low, a few feet low.

Oklahoma City’s athletic rookie Terrance Ferguson was leaving the ground as the pass was thrown, meaning he had to make an in-air adjustment β€” and the results were spectacular.

Corey Brewer continues to be key, scores 22 as Thunder beat Clippers 121-113

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) β€” Five starts, five wins for Corey Brewer with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The recent addition scored 22 points and matched a career high with six steals to help the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 121-113 on Friday night.

The 32-year-old Brewer was bought out by the Los Angeles Lakers late last month, allowing Oklahoma City to pick him up as a free agent. As a starter with the Thunder, he is averaging 14.8 points in the shooting guard spot vacated when Andre Roberson ruptured his left patellar tendon and had season-ending surgery.

Brewer said it has been easy to fit in because he played college ball for Thunder coach Billy Donovan at the University of Florida.

“I won’t say it’s surprising,” Brewer said. “It’s a comfort level. I keep telling everybody, coach Donovan makes me feel really comfortable. I won two national championships with the guy. It’s just his demeanor and the faith he has in me that makes the game easier.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 22th triple-double of the season and the 101st of his career. Brewer said playing Westbrook’s up-tempo style has been fun.

“Yeah, I love to run,” Brewer said. “That’s my game. I can run all day, so having Russell Westbrook pushing on the break just running to get a layup – it’s easy.”

Paul George scored 19 points and Steven Adams added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who swept all three games from the Clippers this season.

Oklahoma City, one of several teams in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, won its fifth straight and clinched a winning season. It was the start of a difficult closing stretch against mostly teams in playoff contention.

Adams created problems for the Clippers all night.

“He’s a good basketball player,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I almost think that’s a slap just to call him and energy player because he is a skilled basketball player with high IQ and is just extremely physical. It seems like every time we got a big stop, he got it back for them, so you just have to give him credit.”

Tobias Harris scored 24 points and Austin Rivers added 23 for the Clippers, but the Thunder scored 31 points off Los Angeles’ 23 turnovers. DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 21 rebounds.

“They are fifth in the league for fast breaks,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You don’t turn the ball over. You turn the ball over that many times, you’re going to lose the game.”

Brewer and Adams carried the load in the first half, scoring 14 points each to help the Thunder take a 63-56 lead.

Terrance Ferguson got a 3-pointer to rattle in early in the fourth quarter to give the Thunder a 94-87 lead. He later caught a pass in midair around his waist, and then kicked his legs out and hesitated before making a reverse layup to bump the lead to 96-88.

Westbrook clinched the triple-double on a rebound in the fourth quarter. His mid-range jumper gave the Thunder a 116-107 lead and forced a Clippers timeout, and Oklahoma City maintained control from there.