2 Total Updates since October 18, 2010
over 2 years ago Update 1 comment
As with any lottery pick, expectations were set in place for Clark to become a team cornerstone for years to come. However, even from the beginning, the young man had his doubters. Several scouts and insiders questioned whether Earl had what it took to make it in the NBA. ESPN's Chad Ford even penned this line before the draft, "He has top-five talent, but his inconsistency and concerns about his work ethic could cause him to slide."
Now, after two years of dotted chances and scattered minutes, the Suns have declined to pick up Earl Clark's 2011-2012 option.
"We respect Earl. We like him. Just looking forward, it didn't seem like we could make that commitment to him now," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "Doesn't mean we don't like him. Doesn't mean he doesn't have a future here. Certainly doesn't mean he doesn't have a future in the NBA. He's going to be a terrific NBA player, but you just have to make judgments at the time and that is the judgment that we made."
Before the Suns' busy offseason, the general consensus appeared that Earl would be a primary player in the team's young nucleus. Yet, after a summer filled with spending and new acquisitions, Clark finds himself in the exact same situation as last year. With a rotation that goes ten-deep, and a glut of players at his primary position, there simply aren't enough minutes to go around.
Head coach Alvin Gentry described, "I don't think you can play eleven or twelve. I don't see any way of doing it. Not unless you're talking about playing a guy for three, four, five minutes; which I think is really unfair."
Nevertheless, despite all the confusion surrounding his situation, the young man refuses to get discouraged.
"I'm a little bit disappointed, but when you're in this business, you know that's what you got to go through. There's nothing I can do about it now. Just stay positive and continue to be a good teammate and work hard," Clark said. "It's not tough to stay motivated. I'm a pretty self-motivating guy. I can't hang my head. I just got to continue to work and wait for my opportunity."
Though, it is fair to ask whether Clark has truly ever been given a legitimate shot. After a rookie season in which he played a minimum of fifteen minutes in only five games - and not once in the final three months - Earl has yet to see a single minute through three games thus far this season. Seven months ago Gentry said that he would be disappointed if Clark was not a rotation player by the November. Now that sentiment has altered dramatically.
In reality, it is only human nature to be affected by such opposing expectations. Clark is only twenty-two years old, and not yet fully acclimated to the inherent adversity that comes in such a competitive business.
"If you make a mistake, you think it's the end of the world because it's not like you have a long leash or a big space to make mistakes. When you do get out there, the pressure to not make mistakes, look good, and try to prove that you need to be out there, sometimes that's hard," Clark explains. "I've improved in a lot of things, as far as just slowing down, not rushing as much, and knowing the plays from the three and the four position."
"Confidence, that's something that comes with playing, and until that happens, I guess you guys are going to see me on the bench," he continued. "Everything happens for a reason. I think if you ask anybody around here, I worked hard. It's just a learning experience. Some people adapt to the NBA quicker than others. I think it's just taking me a while."
At this point, it is valid to wonder whether this constant stagnation is starting to have a negative effect on Earl's game. In March of last year, similar concerns were being raised. To combat this idea, Clark was assigned to the Iowa Energy in the NBA Development League in an effort to give him a chance to see significant playing time. In only three games Earl Clark averaged a stellar 20.7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. This year may see the process repeated.
"If that happens, I'm going to do what I have to do. I went down there before. You've seen the things that I can do down there. That's not a problem," he said. "I feel as though it was kind of a breeze," Earl joked before solemnly concluding, "I'd rather stay here. I want to play in the NBA."
At present, the whole situation seems to be set in a "wait and see" mode. Even so, both Alvin Gentry and Lon Babby seem to be in concurrence that this matter is far from over.
"I think there is a good possibility that there will be a time where [Clark] will have an opportunity to step up and show what he can do," Gentry firmly stated.
Babby agreed, concluding, "We may regret the decision, and I hope for his sake that we do."
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Paul Coro, Arizona Republic beat writer for the Phoenix Suns, says the team is unlikely to pick up second-year forward Earl Clark's 2011-12 contract option. Clark, drafted fourteenth overall in the 2009 draft, rarely saw the court during his rookie campaign last year. In fact, he played the fewest minutes of any first round pick outside of Okahoma City's center B.J. Mullens.
Initially, the team had high hopes that Clark would be the type of versatile defender and opportunistic scorer they once had in Shawn Marion, and could become a cornerstone of the future Suns rotation. But in his limited playing time, he showed a propensity for poorly chosen shots and looked lost in the team's overall schemes on both sides of the court.
Clark was already doing enough (or too little?) to alienate himself from the rotation without taking into consideration the team's newfound glut at small forward. Add it all up, and Clark was again unlikely to crack the regular rotation.
The Suns -- who, under Steve Nash's leadership, have remained in playoff contention most years -- have rarely gotten a lottery pick in the draft and it's a disappointing blow to the team's future that they misfired on a rare grab at an elite college player.
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
His name is Earl.
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.