Earl Clark Not Sure If Suns Will Pick Up Team Option On Rookie Contract

His name is Earl.

Earl Clark, the Phoenix Suns 2009 draft lottery pick who shows flashes of brilliant potential mixed in with moments of cluelessness on the court. 

Earl Clark, who is still only 22-years-old, and has been given ample opportunity to show what he's got this preseason -- not just to earn a spot in the Suns rotation, but also to guarantee that he will be earning an NBA paycheck next season.

The Suns have until November 1 to pick up the team option for the third year of his rookie contract, but right now Earl has no idea what's going to happen. He wasn't even aware of the deadline.

"I didn't even know that," Earl said when I asked about his contract uncertainty after Monday's practice.

He's busy taking a more Zen approach to his life.

"I can't worry about things I can't control. It's up to them if they pick it up. If not, I'm still going to be me (and) work hard just to be a better player. That's the bottom line."

The bottom line is that this preseason was big for Earl to show that his year spent on the Suns bench last season and the countless hours on the practice floor have paid off.

Earl appreciates that he's finally gotten a fair opportunity to not only play, but to log minutes with the Suns regular rotation guys.

"Yeah, I think I got a fair opportunity," Clark said. "I did some good things and still got a lot to work on. It's still really my first time being out there during the game as much minutes as I am right now. But you know, everyday I'm feeling better, feeling more confident just being out there. It's a good thing for me to be finally getting out there and getting some experience under my belt."

Clark's preseason numbers don't jump off the page and no observer of the Phoenix Suns is talking about his play in positive tones.

He's logged a total of 92 minutes -- 10th on the team -- and has scored 25 total points in six games by shooting 34.6% from the field. Earl has 16 rebounds (same as Nash, who has played 20 more minutes) and eight turnovers (same as Childress, who has played 37 more minutes).

Going into the preseason, the mantra for Clark was "simplify."

The coaching staff wanted him to focus on doing just a few things really well and moved him strictly to power forward so he wouldn't have to worry about playing both forward positions, which gave him problems last season.

"It's easier for me now. As far as last year, it was too much for me, where I didn't know the three (small forward) and the four (power forward). But now I learned two positions, so now it's just producing consistently at both positions and if I do that, I'll be fine," Clark said.

Earl says the coaching staff just wants him, as a young player, to focus on playing with energy, rebounding the ball and running the floor. 

While head coach Alvin Gentry beat the drum at the end of last season that he would be disappointed if Clark wasn't a contributing rotation player, the tune has changed now to a more mellow hum.

"We'll have to wait and see on things like that," Gentry said about Clark when asked if he would be a contributing factor off the bench.

If the Suns don't pick up the option for Clark, he would join Joe Alexander (2008, eighth), Patrick O'Bryant (2006, ninth), and Yarloslav Korelev (2005, eleventh) as other lottery picks who didn't have their rookie options picked up.

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