“Just his defense alone will help us,” Mike D’Antoni said at practice this week. “If he goes (13) and 9 as he did (Sunday), it’s just extra. But he has the energy on the floor, and his ability to be able to contest shots with length has been a big, big plus.”
Particularly with Hill out, the Lakers desperately need a mobile, active force on that side of the ball. As one assistant told me, Clark’s athleticism allows him to make multiple efforts on one defensive possession, particularly important next to Howard, who has complained repeatedly about a lack of weakside support when he moves to contest shots. Moreover, Clark’s ability to cover multiple positions (Tuesday, D’Antoni stuck him on Milwaukee’s Monta Ellis) has added versatility to a defense that was in free fall. (Check out what Brandon Jennings said about Kobe’s tenaciousness following the Lakers’ win Tuesday night.)
Offensively, while D’Antoni acknowledged the league will definitely adjust to Clark if he continues producing — i.e. they’ll cover him — “he is playing with a lot of Hall of Famers out there. You can only tighten up so much. They’re going to leave somebody open, and he should take advantage of it.”
The Lakers will eventually live and die with the performance of their stars. Howard and Bryant have to find better chemistry on the floor, and D’Antoni needs to figure out how to get Gasol and Howard to play together productively, but the Lakers badly needed something to change the dynamic of their rotation.
Does hoping Clark can be that sort of manna-from-heaven catalyst for change smack a little of desperation?
Sure, but these are desperate times for the purple and gold heading into Thursday’s matchup with Miami.
For the Kings, the big question is whether next season they’ll still be eligible for coverage in this space. Yahoo! Sports reported last week the Maloof family had reached a deal with a group led by venture capitalist Chris Hansen and including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that would have the team playing in Seattle as soon as next season.
Not surprisingly, the city of Sacramento, not without its own mega-rich, isn’t going quietly into the night.
Names like Mark Mastrov, the former owner of 24-Hour Fitness who missed on a winning bid for the Golden State Warriors a couple seasons back, and grocery magnate Ron Burkle are part of the conversation to keep the team in Cali’s state capital. One plan would have the Kings move to a new downtown arena, giving the Kings a badly needed facility upgrade and a boost to the city’s metro area (for the uninitiated, Sleep Train Arena is located nowhere near downtown).
Still, NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports the team has a “clear path” to Seattle, and unless anything changes the Kings are gone, despite what Sacto mayor Kevin Johnson calls a “six week sprint” to find a viable plan to keep the team.
To an outside eye (this one) it seems like anything that could have been done to keep the team in Sacramento would have been by now, the Maloof’s penchant for screwing with the local populace notwithstanding.
It’s a shame. Seattle didn’t deserve to lose the Sonics and should be an NBA city, but Kings fans haven’t done anything wrong, either. And because Sacramento isn’t exactly the sexiest of markets, despite being the 20th largest for TV, it could be a long time before the NBA returns, if it comes back at all.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
They’re undeniably fun to watch (if David Stern had a higher IQ, every nationally-televised game in the NBA would feature either Golden State or the Clips) and have logged wins this season over the Clippers, Pacers, Heat, Hawks, and Nuggets, among others, but it’s easy to harbor a little skepticism regarding the Warriors.
Not that they’ll fall out of the playoff race — won’t happen as long as Stephen Curry doesn’t miss extended time — but Golden State is exceeding expectations in ways nobody expected. Namely, they’ve transformed the league’s 27th ranked defense last season into the 11th best. That’s a massive improvement.
Meanwhile, they have the second-lowest point differential in the Western Conference’s top eight (+1.8) and sit 10 games over .500, which nobody predicted.
The next week should answer some questions.
The Dubs are coming off a five-game stretch in which they split a home-and-home against the Clippers (both teams winning in dominant fashion), then sandwiched a narrow win over Portland between losses to Memphis and Denver.
Over their next five, the Warriors host Miami, then play back-to-back roadies in San Antonio and (suddenly competent) New Orleans before welcoming the Clippers and Oklahoma City on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
So when we check back in on the fellas from Oakland a week from now, we’ll have a much better reading on how they stack up against the rest of the best of the West.
Brian and Andy Kamenetzky are sportswriters and radio hosts who have worked in sports media for over a decade. They have covered the Lakers and the NBA for eight seasons, for both the LATimes.com and ESPN.com, as well as ESPN The Magazine. Follow them on Twitter at @KamBrothers.