Earl Clark preparing for his chance


PHOENIX — When Steve Kerr said on Draft Day that he couldn’t see how lottery pick Earl Clark would earn time over guys like Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson, I thought it was just his way of motivating the 14th overall selection in the 2009 draft.

Instead Clark hasn’t made much more of an impact than Taylor Griffin in his rookie season.

With Dudley and Lou asserting themselves as super subs and Clark proving to be a skilled but raw rookie, that time just isn’t there for Clark on a Suns squad currently contending for a top Western Conference playoff spot.

I could not have been more wrong about Clark this season. I thought the Suns would need a big rookie campaign out of him to contend; instead the Suns had to send him to Iowa last week just to give him a little court time to implement everything he’s learned in practices this year.

Playing three games for the Iowa Energy, Clark averaged 20.7 points, 9.0 boards and 2.0 assists per game while playing mostly the three and a bit of four.

“I got to guard and do some stuff that I’ve been working on with the coaches after practice and basically just getting out there and playing,” Clark said. “I haven’t played minutes like that in a long time, so it was good for me.”

Clark’s been spending a lot of time working on his mid-range game, as being able to pull up and hit the 15-footer will be a key to his future success. He’s also worked on refining his post game.

The Earl Clark we have seen thus far in the NBA has not been great. He has yet to meet a shot he doesn’t like, and he often seems like he’s out there playing to impress the coaches with numbers rather than just playing his game.

He’s averaged just 7.7 minutes in 45 games, and his averages of 2.7 points and 1.1 boards per game on 35.5 percent shooting from the field won’t exactly put him in the running for Rookie of the Year honors.

But Clark feels that one day his time will come with the Suns.

“It was great, just sitting back and feeling confident that I’m moving in the right direction,” he said of his stint in Iowa. “Once Coach is ready to give me big-time minutes like that I’ll be ready to go.”

Clark does not have to look far for some encouragement that an underwhelming rookie season could develop into a stellar sophomore campaign.

Both Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic were disappointments as rookies, with Lopez averaging 3.1 points and 2.0 boards in 10.2 minutes of 60 games and Dragic 4.5 points and 2.0 assists in 13.2 minutes of 55 games. The 2008 draft was written off as a failure at this time last year, but the Suns wouldn’t be where they are today without Lopez and Dragic, who are both key members of the Suns’ present and future.

I feel the same way about Clark. You can call the long, athletic 6-foot-10 performer a bust this season, but I don’t think he’ll be a bust for long. He still makes sense as the long-term answer at the three with his versatility on both sides of the court. One day everything will click for him.

“It’s real encouraging, just being patient basically,” Clark said when the rookie years of Lopez and Dragic were brought up. “You’ve got a lot of veterans on this team. I’m just grateful just to be here and learn from those guys so I know what to do, what mistakes not to make, things like that.”

Amare’s best dunk ever?

Paul Coro tackles the topic of if Amare’s throwdown on Anthony Tolliver Monday night was his best dunk ever, and so does Suns.com.

I would say it’s probably the best dunk of “old Amare’s” career (can a 27-year-old be considered old even after all his knee surgeries?), but I still say this one falls a touch short of his vicious embarrassments of the Kandi Man and Adonal Foyle. Still, this dunk was flat-out sick, an absolute poster job, and when you consider it completely shifted the momentum of the contest by tying the game and was the impetus for Phoenix’s clinching run, it may be his most important posterization ever.

Also, we can all thank Stephen Curry for the dunk, too, because if he cans that three to put Golden State up six, not only would the Suns have had a hard time crawling back from that deficit, but we wouldn’t have gotten to see Amare obliterate a former D-Leaguer.

In honor of STAT’s latest posterization, here’s a fun YouTube compilation of Amare’s top 100 dunks:

Must-see JMZ

Amare’s dunk brought out another edition of JMZ. Not only do we find out that Dudley is a two-time high school dunk champ (or so he says) in this episode, but two-time NBA dunk champion Jason Richardson explains why Amare’s throwdown is the nastiest dunk he’s ever seen, and that’s saying something.

Inching toward the 2 seed

The Mavs won and the Nuggets lost Tuesday night, which means the Suns are now just two games behind both of those teams for the No. 2 seed in the West. Amazing, isn’t it? Only four games separate the No. 2 seed and the No. 7 seed out West (and five the No. 8), which means we are in for quite the unpredictable postseason with nothing except a series victory by anyone over the Lakers able to be considered an upset.

If the Suns take care of business against their upcoming stretch of patsies, it will be interesting to see where they wind up in the standings at the end of March.