July 30, 2014

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Cavs: Versatile Earl Clark agrees to two-year contract

CLEVELAND — Power forward Earl Clark has struck it rich in his first foray into NBA free agency.

The Cavaliers and Clark agreed to terms on a two-year, $9 million contract Thursday afternoon, a league source confirmed. Only the first season is guaranteed, as Cleveland holds a team option for 2014-15.

Earl Clark

The pact, which cannot be signed until July 10 under NBA rules, was first reported by Sean Deveney of Sporting News.

Clark averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds last season for the Lakers, but only shot .440 from the field, .337 on 3-pointers and .697 from the foul line. The University of Louisville product has appeared in eight career games against the Cavaliers, averaging 6.4 points with a .538 field goal percentage.

Though the 6-foot-10 Clark has exclusively played in the post during his four years in the NBA, Cleveland general manager Chris Grant and coach Mike Brown envision him as their possible starter at small forward.

Under their plan (and excluding any additional moves), the Cavaliers’ starting lineup will be center Anderson Varejao, power forward Tristan Thompson, Clark, shooting guard Dion Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett would enter the season as Clark’s backup, while former starting small forward Alonzo Gee becomes the backup shooting guard, which is the role he is best suited for.

The 25-year-old Clark made $1.24 million last season with the Lakers, bringing his professional earnings to $6.07 million. He was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by Phoenix, but only spent 1½ seasons there before being traded to Orlando as part of the Vince Carter deal.

The Lakers acquired Clark in a four-team megatrade — headlined by Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum — on Aug. 10, 2012.

Los Angeles had hoped to retain Clark’s services, but told his agent, Kevin Bradbury, that it could not offer him a contract until free agent center Dwight Howard decided whether to re-sign.

With Clark now in the fold, Cleveland has moved on to its next target, which is Knicks small forward Chris Copeland, according to several reports out of New York.

Copeland averaged 8.7 points while shooting .421 on 3-pointers in 56 games with New York. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in April — seven full years after completing his senior college season at Colorado.

Copeland, who turned 29 on March 17, began his professional career with the NBA D-League’s Fort Worth Flyers after going undrafted in 2006.

He subsequently played in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium before being signed to a non-guaranteed, one-year contract by the Knicks on July 16, 2012.

Two other names that the Cavaliers had interest in are now off the market.

Jazz center Al Jefferson agreed to terms on a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, while Bulls shooting guard Marco Belinelli has accepted a two-year, $6 million contract from the Spurs.

Belinelli received a more lucrative offer from Cleveland, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, but chose San Antonio because it is a legitimate championship contender.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.