EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Has the best story of this season hit a wall?
That would be forward Earl Clark, whom the Los Angeles Lakers discovered when three of their big men got hurt before a road trip and Clark responded with 22 points and 13 rebounds Jan. 9 in a loss to San Antonio. Recently he has fallen off some, scoring in double figures just once over his previous seven games.
"His energy level is way down," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He might hit a wall a little bit. I don't know the reason, but his playing time has been cut back a little bit. But hopefully he will be re-energized. We need it. Hopefully he can get back up there."
However when Clark was asked whether he was tired, he disagreed.
"Not for me," Clark said. "I just continue to play. I don't know what it is. I'm just playing and trying to do whatever he wants. He's just coaching. If he feels like my energy level is down, he's going to take me out. I guess I have to provide more energy."
Clark has never played anything close to the 31 minutes a game he has averaged in 27 games as a starter. The most minutes he has played in his five NBA seasons was last year when he played almost 13 minutes a game for the Orlando Magic.
He has been putting in extra conditioning before and after practice to try and get into the type of shape to handle the extra workload, but was told recently that he may be overdoing it.
"They say I should slow down with working out and getting more rest," Clark said. "But it's hard when you've been doing this your whole life. I just have to take more precautions and take it easy a little bit. Going to sleep and don't come in here as much. Don't overwork yourself."
How much does he sleep?
"I sleep a lot. I think I get enough rest," he said. "But it's kind of hard to stop working when you've gotten so far and see success. You want to keep going. I never played this much. I don't know the toll that it's taking on my body. It's just about learning and keep going."