Bears

Clark moves into starting lineup for Lakers

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Clark moves into starting lineup for Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike DAntoni decided to start power forward Earl Clark over All-Star Pau Gasol in Monday nights 95-83 loss to the Bulls.

Clark has become a breath of fresh air for this seemingly struggling group. Even in Sunday nights loss to the Raptors, Clark performed well, going 6-of-10 from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

Earl, who has played well, will play and it gives us a little bit more bounce to our step. We are a bit quicker team and hopefully that will help us, DAntoni said.

Looking back, Clark has come a long way from his playing days in Orlando, where he didnt see the court much, let alone start over one of the best players in the league.

Clark, who only started one game in two seasons with the Magic, has already exceeded that number by four in his first season with the Lakers.

Monday was a huge night for Clark, not primarily in statistics, but more on how hard work and effort goes a long way in the scheme of things. Clark has been working hard the past few weeks and feels honored to fill shoes as big as Gasol.

It was cool, you know. Coach gave me the position, Ive been working for it since Ive been in the NBA and Im just honored that he is putting trust in me to start because Pau is great player and a Hall of Famer and I feel honored, Clark said.

I think by the way Ive been playing these last couple of games and showing that I can spread the floor and help Dwight, clear up the middle. With Pau out there, it is difficult when they both want to post up and thats not how he wants to play, so I think that helped me out a lot."

Some may be puzzled by this switch in the lineup, putting Clark at the four and Howard at the five, but DAntoni believes this is the best move and will even provide a boost for Gasols game.

I mean, I think that helps, but I think it also put Pau in his natural position, DAntoni said. He is one of the best centers in the league and weve had him out of position and no matter how well we play together, it just wasnt producing. I mean, right now, were better when are small.

As the game progressed, Gasol returned to play normal minutes but was not sour about coming off the bench, according to DAntoni.

I talked to him about it and he understands where we have to go. Weve got to do it and hes going to come in off the bench at the five primarily and if we can sneak some minutes in with them both in, then good. If we cant, we cant but we just have to do that.

Gasol, who finished with a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, showed even coming off the bench wouldnt stop him from performing to his All-Star ability.

He has seemingly embraced this new role, though whether its temporary or permanent has yet to be decided.

I mean I cant see the future but we are ready to go forward like this, DAntoni stated.

Clark, who concluded the game with 12 points and eight rebounds, is hopeful about continuing as a starter. His plan to stay in the starting lineup is straight forward and takes full advantage of his ability to rebound and defend at all positions.

Continue to hit open shots and play my game and dont be timid out there, just be aggressive and defend and rebound," Clark said.

Knowing DAntonis style of play of fast-paced, up and down basketball, Clark feels strong about his skills fitting perfectly into the game plan.

Just because he likes to get out and run, spread the floor and just be versatile. You know he likes basketball players, he doesnt really like players with positions so you know get out pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop and put me at different positions like the three and four and also to guard different people.

It seems like Clark fits this description seamlessly.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: