I can't say I watched Earl Clark's entire D-league debut game, but I did catch the full overtime period. Earl obviously did his work early putting up 27 points on 11/16 shooting. Impressive. As was the 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He got to the line for 8 FTA's as well.
He played a full 45 minutes game which had to have worn him out a bit. He works hard in Phoenix, putting in extra gym time after almost every Suns home game and has earned praise from the coaching staff for his effort. But there's nothing like playing in a real game.
Earl had 25 of his 27 in the first three quarters with only 2 points in the fourth and none in the OT. I tuned in just in time to see him miss a long two and commit a turnover trying to drive the lane. He was striped and may have been fouled. It's hard to tell watching on a computer screen.
Perhaps most surprising and impressive were the comments from Iowa Energy Head Coach Nick Nurse in his post game interview. He said he was impressed by Earl's basketball IQ and his ability to learn the plays and fit into to the team with only one day of practice. He called Clark a good team player and was happy with a few of his "man" rebounds.
According to Nurse, Steve Kerr will be in Iowa this weekend to watch Earl play in his next two games with the Energy. The plan is for him just to play three games with the Energy to hopefully get him some "seasoning" in preparation for the Suns playoff run.
The Energy next play their rival Sioux Falls Skyforce on Friday and Saturday. If Kerr skips the Suns-Jazz game on Friday to watch Earl play in Des Moines you know how serious he is about Clark.
The unanswered question is how many of Earl's shots came in the paint and how many were jump shots. We'll track down an answer to that.
It is also worth pointing out and congratulating the Energy on their D-league leading 33-11 record. Clark is playing for a fine organization and with some solid teammates including Cartier Martin, who hit a big shot to clinch the game; Curtis Stinson, who had 19 points and 21 assists(!); Mark Tyndale, who had 30 points and a few big shots in OT; and Earl Barron, who controlled the paint with 14 and 10.
The Energy, by the way, scored 135 points and were only 3/8 from behind the arc. Nice.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/18/10 8:44 AM MST ]
Coach Nurse emailed me this additional report on Earl's play:
He did most of his damage off the bounce and with mid range jumpers. He made great decisions all night as to when to go all the way to the cup and when to pull up or when to pass. He didnt make many mistakes on his decision-making. His tempo was great and he played great team ball. He also worked hard at the defensive end.
Coach said he may have got tired as the game wore on but the other team started doubling him as well.
Here's the quotes from Earl from the local paper:
NBA D-League: Suns rookie gives Energy a boost | desmoinesregister.com | The Des Moines Register
“I got tired a little bit at the end,” Clark said after scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. “But it’s good to get out here and play 40 minutes.”
Clark, a 6-foot-10 swing player out of Louisville with a quick first step, was taken with the 14th pick of the NBA Draft by Phoenix. He has played 45 games there this season, averaging 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds and 7.7 minutes. He was making his NBA Development League debut Wednesday.
“At first, it’s kind of, you don’t know what to think,” Clark said of his demotion. “But it’s a situation in Phoenix where I’m playing behind a lot of hall of famers. I’ve been working real hard. And they want me to get out here and show the things I’ve been working on, stretch out. It’s a good opportunity to play this many minutes.”