Devin Ebanks is feisty, and the Lakers like it
In an ordinary practice, Lakers forward Devin Ebanks showcased an extraordinary effort. He tenaciously guarded Steve Blake at one point and tried to strip the ball away. As soon as he saw the loose ball, both Ebanks and Blake dove for it. Ebanks came out on top.
That play epitomizes the grit and determination Ebanks has showcased with the Lakers thus far in training camp. Kobe Bryant has praised Ebanks' work ethic, Ron Artest says, "He has some feistiness in him and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson expressed satisfaction with Ebanks' intensity.
"Devin's reacting really well defensively, " Jackson said. "Offensively, it's still a little bit of a mystery to him. But he's got the ability to find open spots and take shots and get down the court and be real active in our offense."
Ebanks' stat line in the Lakers' first two preseason games shows a modest contribution: 4 1/2 points per game on a three-of-seven clip in 8 1/2 minutes per contest. His understanding of the triangle and his shooting stroke need work, but his defensive tenacity fits in well with the physical intensity Bryant, Artest and Matt Barnes bring to the floor. It's hard to gauge how this all will translate into the regular season, considering the Lakers' loaded front court and Ebanks' inexperience. But one thing's for certain: The Lakers have a prospect who will quickly improve thanks to a positive and relentless attitude.
"Given the time I've been able to play, I think I gave good minutes, and I keep working out," Ebanks said. "In practice, I'm playing hard and playing defense. Things will work out."
Ebanks' determined attitude roots back to his childhood in Queens. The native New Yorker says the environment was rough, but it taught him he could "handle any type of adversity." That same determination enabled him to average 8.1 rebounds per game and excel in Bob Huggins' 3-1-1 defense at West Virginia and proved instrumental, last season, in the Mountaineers' first Final Four run since 1959. And his work ethic has made Artest and Lamar Odom, both also from Queens, proud that Ebanks has represented their home area well.
"I never really got to see him play, but wow I didn't know we had that talent right back at home," said Artest. "He's doing great."
Though Ebanks' determination is apparent, he also has a quiet, unassuming personality (at least outside of Twitter), which bodes well for a rookie trying to fit in with a veteran-laden team. He handles the frequent Trevor Ariza comparisons with grace -- the team's reminders, the media's questions, even when a Best Buy employee asked him if he was the former Lakers forward when he recently bought a TV.
It's a transition period for Ebanks, one in which he should flourish quickly. He's already shown signs of offensive development, averaging 15 points on 42.5% shooting from the field and 45.5% from three-point range in the first five summer league games. He continues working with shooting coach Chuck Person on his footwork and outside shooting. And he makes sure, like in last week's practice, to look for ways to show his hustle and grit. It's been a proven formula he hopes works again.
"I keep working on my all-around game," Ebanks said. "Things will work out.
-- Mark Medina
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