Earl Clark had just touched down in Oklahoma City with his Phoenix Suns when coach Alvin Gentry pulled him aside and informed him the Suns had dealt him, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jason Richardson to the Orlando Magic. With only two outfits packed in his suitcase, Clark hopped a plane to Atlanta, where he joined the Magic on Monday morning.
So it's been a busy few days for the second-year forward, who won't turn 23 until next month. He had to call his girlfriend to have her send some extra clothes; "I've had to wear a few things twice," he said with a grin, seated in front of his the stall Mickael Pietrus used to occupy in Orlando's locker room.
But the veterans Richardson and Turkoglu have helped Clark through this period, with both easing him into a new role in a new city. Clark and Richardson formed a solid friendship in Phoenix dating back to last season, while Turkoglu only joined the Suns over the summer.
With a new city came a new uniform number; Clark wore no. 55 in Phoenix, but has switched to no. 3 to honor Allen Iverson here in Orlando. The Magic initially issued him a uniform with no. 55 on it, and had to scramble to accommodate his no. 3 request. As such, his uniform for Monday's loss in Atlanta, in which he did not play, bore the Hawks' distinct no. 3 font instead of Orlando's. When the Magic's Dante Marchitelli explained the mix-up to Clark, the Louisville product laughed and said, "I thought it looked funny."
Clark's uniform is squared away now, with the correct number font and all. He's ready, too: out of necessity, he'll play tonight against the Dallas Mavericks as Orlando's third big man, with Malik Allen, Ryan Anderson, and Daniel Orton all injured. He's ready for the challenge of defending Dirk Nowitzki if called upon, saying Magic coach Stan Van Gundy advised him to take away Nowitzki's jab step if at all possible.
Van Gundy admitted he doesn't know much about Clark, who's logged just 455 minutes in his young career, just yet. "I know that he's played well against us the last two years when he's gotten an opportunity to play," Van Gundy said, "I know he's a pretty athletic young big guy with some skills, and I think he can move his feet defensively. But we'll have to find that out."
"He'll get an opportunity here for a little while, it looks like, to play a little bit, because we're going to be thin," Van Gundy continued. Clark was pleased when I relayed that message to him.
"I'm happy for the opportunity," he said.