Earl Clark Is Going To China

Photo by Mohamed Malik on Flickr

In two NBA seasons with the Phoenix Suns andOrlando Magic, Earl Clark has yet to garner any regular playing time, appearing in only 93 out of 164 career games.

That’s the biggest reason Clark is headed to the Chinese Basketball Association — he just wants to play.

Clark officially signed a one-year deal with the CBA on Friday afternoon.

via Orlando Sentinel: Playing time biggest factor in Earl Clark’s move to China 

There have been rumors that a slew of NBA players are soon to leave to play overseas as the lockout has dragged on and on, and some of those rumors have come to fruition. Today, another player can officially be added to the growing list of players that have signed with overseas’ teams. Unlike many players, Earl Clark’s deal with the CBA team Zhejiang doesn’t seem to provide an out-clause. Clark’s choice also seems to differentiate in motive, as he apparently simply seeks to earn consistent and copious playing time. Clark is still very young (at age 23) and maintaining viable minutes for one season could be important in allowing him to move closer towards reaching his considerable potential.

The NBA career of Earl Clark has been largely inconsistent. He came to the league carrying heavy expectations as a Suns late lottery-pick (14th), and was unable to translate his skills immediately upon entering the NBA. He played in only 51 games during his first season, and spent time in the D-League. Clark possessed (and still possesses) the ability to be a strong defensive player, but his skill set blended poorly with a fast-paced, offensive-minded Suns team. Throughout his time (1+ years) with the Suns, Clark never shot above 39% from the field or played more than 8 minutes a game. On a team loaded with similar, more experienced, and refined players, Clark always had trouble meshing effectively.

After an early season trade to the Magic in 2011, Clark’s troubles began to dissipate to some extent. He was able to use his versatile defensive skills with more frequency on a team (playing 11.9 MPG in 33 games) that lacked size, and he even made strides in offensive efficiency. Unfortunately, Clark’s strides were less than extensive, and his PER still hovered at a below-average 9.8. Even with the change of scenery, Clark’s role in the Magic’s rotation was far from ensured during the season, and that same uncertainty remained regarding his future with the team.

Now, with a possible lost season looming, Clark has decided to forgo waiting and has chosen the certainty that the CBA offers. He’ll likely be a force to be reckoned with on the court in China, and he’ll have the opportunity to further explore his strengths and weaknesses with the pedigree he’ll carry in the league. For a player as young and inexperienced as Clark, the added confidence he gains while playing for Zhejiang could be essential in improving his game when (or if) he returns to the NBA in 2012. The effects of the lockout environment are largely negative for the immediate future of players (not to mention team employees, media, and fans), but for Clark and a few other players, the added viability that playing overseas offers (encouraged by the harsh environment of  the lockout) could be a helpful tool in their development.

Seth Carstens