(USA Today/Mark J. Rebilas)
By Kevin R. Linares.
The Los Angeles Lakers have lost their athletic forward in Earl Clark. Clark has agreed to a two year deal worth about $9 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second year being a team option. There were reports that the Los Angeles Clippers were also interested in Clark and the Lakers also interested in bringing the small forward back but under their terms.
Clark was acquired by the Lakers from the Orlando Magic in the trade that brought the now free agent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. Although Clark was just a throw in for the trade he was a bright spot for the Lakers in what seemed to be a catastrophic season. In a roster full of veterans and lacking youth, Clark provided youth and athleticism playing minutes because of the injuries the Lakers suffered throughout the season. He played one of his best games earlier in the season against the San Antonio Spurs scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
The Lakers were interested in bringing Clark back but playing the way he played this past season teams had gained interest in him. With the Lakers’ luxury tax they could not offer Clark the kind of money a team like Cleveland did. Last season Clark averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds. He will be joining a very young and athletic Cavalier team that includes Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and the number 1 overall pick of this years draft Anthony Bennett.
The Los Angeles Lakers came into Orlando continuing on their streak and playoff push beating the Magic 106 to 97. This is the first game Dwight Howard has played at Orlando since being traded to Los Angeles. There was a lot of talk over Howard’s return especially after making comments that some of his old teammates did not like. Dwight commented to reporters earlier in the week saying his teammates in Orlando were players other teams did not want. The comments were misunderstood and Howard said he was complementing his old teammates. Going into Orlando the questions were how would Magic fans receive Dwight? How would he play in his return?
There were boos and there were even some cheers, there was also a lot of Laker fans. Some fans wore Howard jerseys replacing his name with coward. Other fans who were sitting behind the Laker bench heckled Dwight telling him that he could not win without Kobe. Dwight responded by admitting that it was true. The real response came with action. Dwight played phenomenal in his return scoring a season high of 39 points and added 16 rebounds. He looked active, which he has been these past few games and being Dwight, smiled most of the game. Hack-A-Dwight came early and Howard was impressive with that hitting 25 of 39 at the free throw line. Howard needs to play the way he did tonight, night in and night out for the Lakers to be a real threat if they make the playoffs.
Metta World Peace was the second leading scorer for the Lakers adding 14 points. Kobe Bryant had a quiet night with only 11 points and added 8 assists. From the bench, Jodie Meeks led the way with 11 points, followed by Antwan Jamison with 10 points. Steve Blake did very well distributing the ball and had 8 assists.
The Lakers had trouble in the first half letting Jameer Nelson, who ended up with 21 points and Arron Afflalo with 17 points, have their way, but took over the game in the second half leading to an easy win. Before the end of the game, many Magic fans had left and Howard was cheered on by the few fans still present when he was taken out of the game. With this win the Lakers regain the 8th playoff spot over the Utah Jazz but with a loss tomorrow and a win by Utah things can go back and forth. The Lakers currently hold the 8th seed by just half a game and if they were to end the regular season in a tie, it would go to the Jazz who won the season series. The Lakers are on back to back games heading to Atlanta on Wednesday to take on the Hawks who they previously beat in a close game at the Staples Center on March 3rd.