Pau Gasol Injury: Earl Clark’s Emergence Shouldn’t Affect Star Forward’s Role

Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol will miss his fifth straight game on Tuesday due to a concussion (per the Los Angeles Times), but something tells me that's just fine with Earl Clark.

Over the first four games of Gasol's absence (especially the past three), Clark has emerged as a breakout player under coach Mike D'Antoni.  He's averaging 12.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while providing an energy on both ends that was sorely needed in Los Angeles. 

Some have even argued that Clark's emergence over the past few games gives credence to the theory that Gasol is the Lakers' biggest problem, personnel-wise. In fact, there are even some who feel Gasol's role should be lessened upon his return to make room for Clark in the rotation. 

Well, to put it mildly, those people are wildly incorrect. 

Gasol being the overarching problem for the Lakers has always been a silly, straw-man argument since the narrative began. As if he's the reason D'Antoni's squad ranks 20th in the league in defensive efficiency or that the coaching staff has decided to play him consistently away from the basket.

First and foremost, history suggests Clark's emergence may be a mere aberration. Four-game sample sizes are inherently flawed measures to begin with, but ultimately can be useful if viewed through the correct prism. 

In particular, there's very little evidence to suggest Clark will continue shooting at a high percentage. A career 40 percent shooter, Clark is shooting more than 11 percent better over this short stretch.

Clark has especially stepped up his game in the one place that has vexed him throughout his NBA career: jump shooting. Despite knocking down under 30 percent of his jump shots over the course of his career, Clark is hitting 43.8 percent this season.

One could fairly surmise that playing with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant helps that total. T...

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