LAS VEGAS — If you were expecting Earl Clark to turn into a bonafide NBA player this summer league, you’ve got to be disappointed about the Louisville product’s first two games.
Clark turned in another mediocre performance in Saturday’s 103-69 thrashing at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, going for 15 points and five boards on 5-for-14 shooting in 22 minutes. The Suns were only -11 in his court time (the rest of the starters were all at least in the negative mid 20s) after he was a team-worst -19 in Friday’s loss to Houston.
Although he attacked the rim more often than he did Friday, Clark still showed a propensity to settle for perimeter jumpers, shots he often clanked. He’s now 9-for-28 (32.1 percent) from the floor through two games. Against summer league defenses.
“Today I had a rough game, just stay positive and tomorrow come out and do the same thing,” Clark said.
Added Summer Suns coach Dan Majerle of Clark: “He’s struggling a little bit. That happens in summer league. He wants to come out and play real well, and he may be pressing a little bit. I don’t know if he’s in the greatest shape possible. He’s a good player, he’s very talented. He’s just got to figure it out, and he will. “
The most distressing point Majerle made has to be the shape thing. Clark even admitted he’s “not in as good of shape as I thought I was.”
It’s OK for him to make mistakes while learning, but when your coach makes a comment about your shape to the media, that’s not a good sign.
I’ll take a more in-depth look at Clark later, but for now it’s disappointing to see him come back as the same player he was last year who couldn’t crack Alvin Gentry’s deep rotation.
The Suns need him to be a rotation guy next season, and the early returns aren’t encouraging.
However, a bad summer league team in which he’s the best player might not be the best place for Clark to showcase his skills. The Suns won’t need him to be their star, they just need him to be a piece who can use his athleticism to wreak havoc defensively and get open enough for Steve Nash to find him for easy buckets.
“Earl’s going to be a role player,” Majerle said. “This is the start of it, and it’s going to be a lot easier for him when he’s playing with guys like Steve and Grant and Jason and those guys. He’s got to be a leader out here not only with his play but how hard he plays. Like I said, maybe he’s pressing a little bit, but he’ll get better.”
Gani impresses in the fourth
After a lackluster first three quarters, Gani Lawal went into beast mode in the fourth quarter.
Lawal scored 10 points in the deciding period (or should I say “fourth” since the game was far from in doubt by then), showcasing a nice spin move that drew a foul and later making a steal and going coast to coast for a dunk.
It was also nice to see him go hard to the finish when seemingly the rest of the team had mailed it in.
“Gani’s going to be good,” Majerle said. “He’s got a long way to go, but he plays really hard, he loves posting up, has got some good, explosive moves. Once he learns the NBA game I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good.”
ESPN’s David Thorpe, who has watched Lawal the last two days, thinks he could be a real find.
“Lawal is a guy that should be in the league a long while,” he tweeted.
Not a good team
As a person so used to the pretty basketball played by Steve Nash’s Suns teams, it’s hard to watch this Summer Suns squad that just isn’t very talented.
The only potential NBA players on this squad really are Clark and Lawal (and it’s hard to say at this point if either will be good NBA players), and the Suns have thus far been overmatched in both games.
They are facing teams with lottery picks and legit NBA players, and it isn’t pretty.
Against the Raptors, the players joining Clark in the starting lineup were -34 (Taylor Griffin), -27 (Matt Janning), -27 (Zabian Dowdell) and -24 (Lawal) in +/-.
Griffin, a player who needed a strong summer to establish himself as a roster player, is 3-for-14 (21.4 percent). He missed four of five threes this afternoon, hardly the stats of a guy hoping to become a perimeter player.
After a solid first game, Dowdell also struggled with a three-point, 1-for-8 shooting performance against the Raptors.
The defense has also been downright Suns-like. The Suns are the only team to yield triple digits in Vegas, and they’ve done it in both games.
After getting Sunday off, the Suns take on the D-League Select on Monday at 5:30 p.m. MST. It’s hard to say which roster will possess more talent.