- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Matt Barnes missed the Lakers' regular season finale against the Sacramento Kings to stay back in Los Angeles and work rehabilitate his right ankle which the team says is moderately sprained and Mike Brown calls a "serious" injury.
No matter if Barnes' ankle is fully recovered in time for the Lakers' playoff opener against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, he'll have to wait a little longer than tipoff to get on the floor.
Even though Metta World Peace will have six more games remaining on his suspension when the postseason opens up, Barnes won't be starting in World Peace's place at small forward.
"Ebanks can play the small forward or the two guard," Brown said, alluding to the seven games Ebanks filled in as a starter for Kobe Bryant while Bryant was out with his left shin injury. "I always like to if I can to not disrupt too much of the team or too much of what we have going on. We have a rotation right now that we feel good with with our bench, so I’d probably end up starting Ebanks, but who knows."
Ebanks started Thursday against the Kings despite dropping a 55-pound weight on his left hand while working out this week. He did enough to earn Brown's confidence in the Lakers' 114-106 double-overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to get the nod moving forward. Ebanks had eight points, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 27 minutes, but more importantly helped hold Kevin Durant to 11-for-34 shooting with his defense.
"He showed me a lot," Brown said. "You don’t stop a guy like Kevin Durant. Hopefully you can just make him work and I thought Ebanks did a good job or a solid job of trying to make the guy work and the guy still scored, which he’s going to score, but we like Ebanks doing at least what we ask him to do with our defensive principles."
While Barnes earned a starting spot with the Thunder win, Jordan Hill found a role in the rotation. Brown inserted Hill into the lineup as the first frontcourt player off the bench behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on a hunch, and was rewarded as Hill put up a season-high 14 points and a career high 15 rebounds.
"Jordan has earned the right to continue getting looks at that third big, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do," Brown said, meaning that Hill should see time ahead of Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy.
A combination of Hill's right knee not being 100 percent after suffering an MCL sprain when he was still with Houston and Brown not wanting to "disrupt" the rotation with L.A. playing solid basketball since the All-Star break kept the 24-year-old on the bench.
But not anymore.
"He’s earned the right to play and continue to get looks," Brown repeated. "He’ll be that guy."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.