Earlier this week the Magic re-signed Earl Clark to a two year deal worth a reported $2 million. Orlando acquired Clark in the Jason Richardson/Hedo Turkoglu deal last December but struggled to crack the rotation. He played in only 33 games and scored 4.1 points per game and grabbed 2.5 rebounds per game (12.3 points per 36 minutes and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes).
The team though still has high hopes on Earl Clark and believe that he can fulfill his potential. Stan Van Gundy, for one, believes Clark can develop into a defensive stopper and be a valuable player for the Magic defending perimeter scorers.
“We want Earl to guard the 3s and 4s who are primary scorers, seeing if he can guard Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki … the bigger wings and the 4s,” Van Gundy told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “That’s where I see Earl coming in and getting his minutes.”
That was what the team hoped for Clark last year too. He never quite developed into that. Then again, he never really got his chance.
Clark though still can reach that point. He is only 23 after all. His offense needs to catch up to his defensive potential too. that might hold him back from getting onto the court too. It seemed from the open practice that Clark has improved his jumper some too.
We will only know if he can make that leap and make those improvements when he takes the floor. He certainly seems to be in competition for the backup small forward role behind Hedo Turkoglu. Whether he can win that is still up in the air.
Here aer some other thoughts from today’s open practice:
-DeAndre Liggins is much further along offensively than I think anybody thought he would be. He had some good aggressive drives and is not afraid to take the ball off the dribble going up against a pretty solid defender in Quentin Richardson. Stan Van Gundy likes him a lot according to several practice reports. You can see from his long arms and quickness that he can really be a good defender. He looked the furthest along between the three rookies — Justin Harper and Daniel Orton being the other two.
-Speaking of Orton, he still has a ways to go. It is tough going up against Dwight Howard, but he still looks a step slow. It kind of looks like he is still taking everything in and is learning where he needs to be on the floor. Defensively especially this is a problem. He was a little slow on close outs and rotations. Again, it is tough guarding Dwight Howard, but he just doesn’t have the experience to have everything down perfect yet. He is still learning and would have really benefited from having a Summer League and full training camp. We might have to be a little more patient with him.
-Dwight Howard is still really good at basketball. He added some high post moves to his game. He might be thinking of attacking from the elbow area a bit more this year. He also seems to be a bit more comfortable taking shots from the free throw line extended area. Have to see if he is confident enough to break it out in games though. And then he has to make them.
-Free throws might once again be this team’s Achilles heel. Howard has an improved stroke but did not make them consistently. Turkoglu is still not a great free throw shooter either.
-Von Wafer might be a steal in the Glen Davis trade. Wafer looked really aggressive and showed an ability to get to the basket and make shots. Would not be surprised to see him make the roster and earn some time in the rotation.
-Stan Van Gundy is always focused on the defensive end of the ball. A lot of his in-practice comments were directed at players to close out on shooters and reduce the space players had to drive. This is obviously the stuff Van Gundy wants his players to get down as the team’s success the last four years has been built on Van Gundy’s defensive principles. Team showed a solid effort defensively. There were not very many open jumpers for either team. Van Gundy had his moments of frustration though for sure. All part of the learning process, right?
-Glen Davis sets really good screens. Guys are going to love running pick and rolls and flare screens off of him.
-Larry Hughes looks like has some gas left in the tank. He was pretty active and showed some nice drives. I do not know what his prospects are for making the roster. But if he plays like he did in the practice, he might have a spot and a chance to compete with Chris Duhon for that backup point guard spot.