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Earl Clark Talks About His Time With the D-league Iowa Energy

Earl Clark is hopeful that his time in the D-league will bring him one-step closer to getting consistent playing time with the Suns. (Photo by Max Simbron)
Earl Clark is hopeful that his time in the D-league will bring him one-step closer to getting consistent playing time with the Suns. (Photo by Max Simbron)

Suns rookie Earl Clark had a productive three-game stint with the Iowa Energy. Clark averaged 20.7 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block in 34.3 minutes in those three contests. He shot 50% from the field (24-of-48).

Clark's trip included two double-doubles, 16 or more points in every game, and a 27-point, 12-rebound performance in his debut with the Energy on March 17.

But according to Suns GM Steve Kerr, don't call it a demotion, "Hopefully more and more first round picks will go because I think it's a good way to move the process forward. Demoted is just the wrong word. It's stupid. I don't know why people look at it that way."

Kerr wants to see the D-league assignment rules expanded even further, "I'm hopeful that someday after it's collectively bargained, that you'd be able to send a guy down on an injury stint like in Major League Baseball. If a guy has an injury, maybe make a start down in the minors. I think it would be great if you could do that but as of right now you can only send a guy down in his first two years."

Kerr, recently ranked the second-greatest shooter of all time, evaluated Earl Clark's jump shot, "The thing with Earl, he's got a really nice touch on the ball, but his technique obviously isn't perfect. He shoots it kind of from the side behind his head a little bit. Usually guys like that will be inconsistent shooters, but he practices so much and he works at it so hard and he's got a nice touch, a nice natural touch...It's just a matter of fine tuning it."

Kerr also preached patience when it comes to the development of rookies:

"Being a good player in this league is a long process. Everybody wants it to happen right now. I know everybody was panicking last year when Robin and Goran weren't playing that well. What do people expect? It doesn't happen like that. It usually takes two or three years for players to adapt and develop. We are confident that Earl is going to make that same kind of jump eventually.

"It's mind-boggling to me that people actually look at rookies, especially guys who come out early, and mid-way through their rookie year, they're like, 'He's a bust'. A bust? What are you talking about. You know it's nuts. The other thing is if you play on a good team, how are you going to get minutes?

"Most of rookies who are performing really well are playing because they have to because they don't have veterans in front of them and they not on good team and those teams are trying to establish something. If Earl were on one of those teams, he'd probably be playing a lot of minutes. He understands all that. He's figuring all that stuff out."

After the Suns game against the Trail Blazers on Sunday, I spoke with Earl in the locker room about his time with the Energy. Michael Schwartz from Valley of the Suns asked a few questions, as well.

Here's the exchange:

SP: Welcome back, how was your time out there?

EC: It was great. It was great to get out there. Get some run in. Get on the court, run up and down. We did a great job, I didn't lose any games out there. I thought it was great out there.

SP: That team (the Iowa Energy) is in first place in the D-league. How good are they, how good is the competition?

EC: It's great competition down there. A lot of former NBA players and guys who've been getting called up. It was great competition.

SP: Did you play the three or four?

EC: I played both but I mostly played the three. It was fine, I think I can play both position there. It wasn't a problem for me.

SP: Besides just getting out there and being able to play significant minutes, was there anything else you felt you got out of it or anything you worked on?

EC: Yeah, definitely. I got to go out there and do some stuff that I've been working on with my coaches after practice and basically just getting out there and playing. I haven't played a lot of minutes like that for a long time so it was good for me.

MS: How important was it for you to get out there with all that you're learning here in practice?

EC: It was great, you know. Just sitting back and just feeling confident that I'm moving in the right direction and once coach is ready for me and give me big time minutes like that I'll be ready to go.

MS: What have you improved on most over the course of the year?

EC: My mid-range game. A fifteen-footer knocking it down, pulling up off the dribble and things like that.

SP: What specifically did you work on while in Iowa?

EC: Just things like movement. Igor's been working on a lot of post-up moves and things off the dribble and coming off pick and rolls and things like that.

MS: How encouraging is it to see Robin and Goran who didn't really play last year but now they are big part of this team?

EC: Real encouraging. Just being patient basically. You got a lot of vets on this team, Hall of Famers and I'm just grateful just to be here and learn from those guys so I know what to do, what mistakes not to make and things like that.

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