Lakers Free Agency discussion: Earl Clark

Jeff Gross

Earl Clark became more than a throw-in with Dwight Howard once injuries took their toll on the roster and he found playing time. Did he do enough to earn a return to L.A., though? He wants to come back, but will the front office feel the same?

(Welcome to the 2013 Lakers Summer free agency guide. Be sure to check out our full archive of player capsules, news, editorials, and more on the Lakers free agency period over here.)

There was a time when Earl Clark was an integral part of the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. His sudden emergence off the bench to become a role player for L.A. was a welcome sight as the Lakers needed just about any spark they could fine through the regular season. In fact, we detailed Clark's emergence in our Playbook series when he showed he could contribute to the the purple and gold.

Previous capsule: Kyle Korver

Then, something happened. Perhaps the proper terminology would be that nothing happened, though, as Clark became a ghost of the player that had showed he deserved a shot at playing time. By the time the playoffs concluded it was as if Clark was that same basketball player who came to the Lakers as a throw-in for Howard. The fear of Clark playing himself into a bigger contract than the Lakers could offer has transformed into an entirely different discussion: should the Lakers even offer him a contract?

Why the Lakers should look at Clark

  • Young, athletic player who could come at a discounted price.
  • Showed the ability to pass, slash, and hit open jumpers on offense.
  • Has reasonable foot speed on defense.

Other Considerations

The Lakers will be scouring free agency for athletic, young players who can do two things:

1) Stretch the floor

2) Play defense

Clark may fit the criteria, but money and options will be limited for the Lakers. The problem for Clark may end up being that never established himself as a small forward and played much more like a hybrid power forward than anything else. The Lakers' frontcourt may be the one position that is locked in for now with Dwight Howard (should he re-sign), Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill on the roster. Clark never carved out his niche in the lineup as a small forward, and that could ultimately be the determining factor in bringing him back.

Clark's 2012-2013 Season stats:

7.3 ppg / 44 fg% / 33 3p% / 5.5 rpg / 1.1 apg

Last contract value:

$1.24 million

Free Agency prediction:

In February it was reported that Clark "really wants to stay" with the Lakers and his stance did not change once the season came to an end. Clark told reporters during his exit interview process that he would be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Lakers, and that he wants to be in L.A., reports Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:

"It’s not always about the money," said Clark, who earned $1.2 million this season. "You could go somewhere with more money and be in a bad situation. I’m not trying to do that."

"I want to have a consistent role on a team that believed I could help them win every night," Clark said. "Hopefully I’ll be here. I want to be here. I like the way we play. I think it fits me. We’ll see. I hope Mitch feels the same way."

Money won't be the issue when it comes time for the front office to decide on Clark, but whether he can progress beyond what he showed this season, along with the matter of where he actually fits on the roster, will be the make or break questions on whether Clark get's to stay with the Lakers. Don't expect the Lakers to rush out of the gates to bring Clark back before weighing in other options.

- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

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