It's not often Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter steal the show in El Segundo. Frankly, it's not often the media pays much attention to the rookies, period. But having just undergone an MRI for the stress fracture in his left leg, a few scribes gathered around Devin for test results. The kid's been out since March 5, and unfortunately has at least three more weeks remaining before he's cleared. It's a situation he's learned to begrudgingly accept.
"I feel fine," nodded Ebanks. "I guess it's one of those things where it's not ready yet. I gotta wait it out.
"It's definitely stressful, especially being in practice and wanting to be out there with your teammates. Be a part of it, really. Even when you're sitting on the sideline with the team, you don't really feel a part of it."
But despite the inherently glum nature of an injury discussion, there were laughs to be mined. I asked Ebanks if he's been playing the "I'm injured" card as a way pushing rookie duties onto Derrick Caracter, who happened to working out nearby. "That's already been happening," Caracter shot back. "That card doesn't need to be played." Caracter relayed how Ebanks has been pulling "10-year veteran moves," like picking just the right time to ice up "for an hour."
"He's just complaining right now," laughed Ebanks. "I guess they just like to pick on him more than me. He's jealous."
Caracter then told us to ask Ebanks how many towels he'd picked up that day, and it was on like Donkey Kong. Devin motioned us over to a large whiteboard featuring a Derrick Caracter stick figure drawn by the small forward. (I'll go out on a limb and predict Ebanks took few, if any, art classes at West Virginia.) Ebanks' rendition of Caracter included a size 18XL jersey, size 10XL shorts and a bag of oranges in each hand, commemorating how the big man likes to eat an orange during a game.
Or by Ebanks' count, "20 or 30" oranges.
Caracter insisted Ebanks was exaggerating, although his own estimation of 15 oranges per game still ventures into Cool Hand Luke and "50 eggs" territory. I have to assume these are small oranges, but even so, my gut would likely be in agony after 15, and I've been known to stuff my face. For the rookie, however, the courtside consumption is apparently no big thing. "I like to keep my vitamins right," shrugged Caracter, who noted how Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are big proponents of oranges.
It wasn't officially announced until after practice closed, but Caracter has been assigned to the D-League's Bakersfield Jam squad. I don't know how familiar the rook is with Bakersfield, but it shouldn't take too long to locate a grocery store and maintain his citrus fix. Although really, should orange shopping evolve into an all-night activity, so be it. If Caracter is gonna to hit the town, I imagine the coaching staff would prefer the kid be trolling supermarkets on the hunt for the perfect Cara Cara than perhaps other spots with a higher potential for shenanigans.
As for basketball related items not pertaining to food or art, Lamar Odom's bid for Sixth Man of the Year was a popular item of conversation. Phil Jackson has recently spoken well of Odom's credentials, but admitted the Mav's Jason Terry (presumed by many to be Lamar's toughest competition) is a worthy candidate. As he rightly noted, they're also pretty difficult players to compare. Terry is more of a pure scorer (often in crunch time) while LO is asked to do a bit more of everything.
That being the case, were he a voter, I asked PJ how he'd attempt casting a vote:
"I guess it's the impact a player has on the team. Lamar has so many areas (where) he's valuable. Assists. Rebounds. Besides just scoring. Jason's valuable in his way, perhaps not in the same value in assists and rebounds. It's hard to compare them, though."
I would also add "defense" among the areas where I think LO does a little more than Terry, but I guess I'm also biased in that I'd cast my non-existent vote for the southpaw.
LO is too modest to lobby on his own behalf -- he spent much more time praising Artest's unique impact on defense -- but admitted winning the award would mean a lot to him. In part, because the honor would provide a way of saying "gracias:"
"In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't think that I would ever win the sixth man of the year award, because I thought I would always be a starter. I would love to win the award, but for the fans of L.A. Every time I get going in the game and I hear the crowd picking me up a little bit, it's for them.
"If I do win it, the night I win it, I'll probably leave it on the scorer's table, just to kind of let the fans know it's for them. And to thank them."
Odom has flourished in his role of bench leader, but as he admitted, being asked play off the pine during 2009 training camp initially hurt his ego. I asked what he's since learned to appreciate about the role, and his response, carefully mulled over, was quite interesting:
"Some games, I'm gonna shoot a great percentage and then some games I'm not gonna get it going offensively. But it might just be that one play. The one rebound. The one push after I rebound. The one assist. The one defensive stop that I helped get that might change the momentum of the game. And you know, boom. You did your job. You helped change the game around.
"That's what I've guess learned to appreciate about the role."
Finally, Monday was about rest and philanthropy, as the scheduled day off coincided with a charity golf tournament benefiting the Lakers Youth Foundation. Players mingled with patrons throughout the night, and while the exact totals aren't known yet, the event raised over $200,000, which is great news.
The tourney highlight was Jerry West getting a hole in one, although the triumph didn't come without some irony attached. Riveria Country Club has four par-3's, all of which offered various prizes for a hole in one. Holes 4 and 14 had a car. 6 was a watch worth 12 grand. And 16, which Jerry holed, won him a pair of Laker tickets. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I imagine West already has a pretty good "in" when it comes to seats at Staples. The watch sponsor gave their prize to The Logo -- who promptly donated it and his autographed hole-in-one ball as a live auction item -- but knowing West, the famously dissatisfied perfectionist probably beat himself up for acing the "wrong" hole.