Practice Report: Phoenix vs. LeBron (and update on Earl Clark)

Suns youngsters Earl Clark and Goran Dragic are headed in opposite directions. Dragic continues to improve and grow in confidence while Clark is struggling to learn two positions and is growing more tentative each time he steps on the court. (Photo by Max Simbron)

LeBron James is coming to town for the seventh time in his career. He's lost here on 5 of his first 6 tries but in the process has averaged 29.5 points so it is hard put that record on his (massive) shoulders.

Asked about the Cavs and LeBron's lack of recent success here in Phoenix, Coach Gentry said, "Let's hope that trend continues."

But that came after many minutes of talking about how great of a player he is individually and how much better this Cavs team is with the addition of Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker (who is shooting 50% from three on 86 attempts), "Obviously, you are not going to stop LeBron. You have to try and slow him down some and not turn the ball over because once they get in the open court it's almost impossible to stop them."

The Cavs are playing in Dallas tonight on NBA TV so hopefully they will come to town a bit tired. That may bode well for Channing Frye who will have the assignment of covering Shaq.

Grant Hill compared his task of guarding LeBron with Channing's battle with The Big Shaqtus, "LeBron may hurt you but he's not going to physically hurt you. Shaq may decide he wants to take a cheap foul."

Get some rest Channing. The Big Punisher is coming back to town and game tonight in Dallas or not, he's going to be up for playing in Phoenix.

Clark Update

Since starting the season on opening night with a 20 minute, 5 rebound, 6 point performance against the Clippers, Earl Clark has been on a downward trend with both his performance and opportunities. The only exception came in 18 minutes of a blowout game in Minnesota where he was 6/6 and had a career high 14 points.

For the season he's averaging only 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game and is shooting just over 40%. In his limited minutes of court time he seems to be getting even more tentative and less confident as the season moves on.

I asked Suns assistant coach Igor Kokoskov about Clark's recently play, "Quick reminder for everybody, this is his rookie season. Transition, learning about everything. Little adjustment is, he's got to be as a rookie a couple of things you can control. You can control your preparation. Which means keep yourself in shape. You have to know your plays and don't be in foul trouble."

Kokoskov went on to say that Clark is still thinking too much and struggling with learning both the small forward and power forward position but Igor feels he's making progress and is headed in the right direction.

I specifically asked if Clark was putting in the time and effort to get better, "You have to give him credit. He's coming before practice. He's shooting a lot of shots. On days off he's putting some extra work in. It's a process. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. "

Clark was not on the floor after practice today but Tucker and Griffin were working on catch and shoot situations with the assistant coaches and Dragic stayed to work on some things with his personal coach from Serbia. Lou also stayed late working on free throws.

With Dragic we've seen how much confidence the kid is playing with but he's also now having more fun. I remember asking specifically about this in Vegas during Summer League after the first game where he looked absolutely miserable.

Now, he's a almost a different person. Joking around more and even giving Grant Hill a hard time about something silly. After his extra workout session today, Dragic was sitting on the chairs along the wall in the practice court when a ball rolled over. He picked it up and launched it. Swish. So, of course he had to try again. Swish. Twice in a row.

Then I got out my cell phone to film his next attempt and he joked about putting it on You Tube. Of course, he missed the next few but you can get the idea from this clip.

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