Friday, December 23, 2011
Devin Ebanks in Lakers starting lineup
By Andy Kamenetzky
After a training camp spent deciding between veteran Matt Barnes and second-year player Devin Ebanks as the starting small forward, Lakers coach Mike Brown has finally made a decision.
Brown opted to go with Ebanks, despite the forward's lack of NBA experience. As a rookie in the 2010-11 season, Ebanks averaged just 5.9 minutes and 3.1 points per game and appeared in only 20 contests before suffering a season-ending stress fracture on his left tibia in March.
However, Ebanks' improvement was immediately evident during a strong training camp, and he scored eight points in less than 13 minutes on Wednesday during the Lakers' second preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I learned about it today after practice," said Ebanks. "I'm just ready to go out there and play now."
Brown thought Ebanks "did a nice job."
"Especially in his minutes in the last preseason game, where he didn't turn the ball over," he said. "When the ball came his way, he didn't force anything. He stepped in and he knocked down shots. And then he was solid defensively. He didn't make any mental mistakes or anything like that on the defensive end of the floor. So I felt based on those things, that I was gonna give the nod to Devin.
"... I've talked to Matt about it. His reaction was exactly what I think it should be as a competitor. He's not happy about it. Nobody should be happy about that, and he's gonna fight his tail off and do what he can to help this team win, knowing that while he's doing that, he's working his tail off to earn those minutes back."
Asked how he was able to win his coach's confidence during a shortened training camp, Ebanks cited his overall effort.
"I think I just came out here and I played hard every time I was on the floor," he said. "I think the coaches, and [Brown] as well noticed it, so I have the starting job now."
Sunday will mark Ebanks' first career start. But despite this representing a massive upgrade in opportunity from last season, Ebanks claimed to be unfazed.
"I'm ready to play either way," he said. "That was my focus when I came into training camp and it's going to continue to be that way."
Brown also announced that, as the result of Andrew Bynum's suspension, Pau Gasol will slide to center on Sunday, and Josh McRoberts will start at power forward. Bynum was originally suspended five games as the result of excessive contact to then-Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in the final game of the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas, but the NBA reduced the penalty by one to match the shortened season.
Andy Kamenetzky is a co-author of the Land O' Lakers blog for ESPNLosAngeles.com.