Devin Ebanks valued experience with Bakersfield
With a pack of reporters surrounding his locker, Lakers forward Devin Ebanks plopped into his chair wearing a sweat-soaked T-shirt.
"I'm ready," Ebanks said. "I'm in game shape."
Only a day since the Lakers recalled him from the NBA Development League where he spent nearly two weeks playing for the Bakersfield Jam, Ebanks wasn't wasting any time. He spent a good portion before the Lakers' eventual 109-87 victory Sunday against the New York Knicks playing one-on-one against backup point guard Steve Blake in the hopes that he'd be ready in case Coach Phil Jackson put him into the lineup. He wound up spending the entire game sitting on the bench, but that doesn't mean Ebanks wasted his time. The Lakers recalled him because forward Matt Barnes tore a lateral meniscus in his right knee and is expected to remain sidelined for the next eight weeks following Tuesday's surgery.
In addition to giving Kobe Bryant more time at small forward and the likes of Ron Artest, Luke Walton and Shannon Brown receiving an increased role, Jackson plans to give the rookie Ebanks an opportunity, possibly even tonight when the Lakers (27-11) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29).
"His game is probably at par," Jackson said of Ebanks, who played in 15 games this season for the Lakers and averaged 2.9 points in 6.4 minutes per game. "He's probably playing at a good level and his activity level's good. There's some things he's forgotten, or the nuances, in the last two weeks or so. But he'll be fine."
That endorsement speaks volumes considering Jackson doesn't think highly of rookies, often comparing them to whale waste. Instead, Jackson described Ebanks as a "real athletic kid who can help us out in certain situations."
Ebanks much preferred this spotlight than his six-game stint with the Jam where he averaged 27.7 minutes, 16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, including 25- and 26-point performances in his last two contests. His Twitter account revealed his open wonderment about what there is to do in Bakersfield, his joking that there was nothing to do on New Year's Eve in Orem, Utah, where he played against the Utah Flash on New Year's Day and then spent a rare off day back in Los Angeles. And Ebanks acknowledged that the change in lifestyle served him well.
"It definitely is an eye-opener," Ebanks said. "It makes you stay humble, especially when you come back. Having a taste of that, you just want to work harder and stay in the NBA."
It's not guaranteed that the Lakers will keep him after this season. But so far, Ebanks has taken the right steps. Jackson asked him to sharpen up on rotations and to familiarize himself more with the nuances of the triangle offense. And after the Bakersfield stint, Ebanks reported that Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak had provided a positive review.
"He said I did pretty well," Ebanks said of Kupchak. "He was impressed with my progress."
The Lakers may find out how on that translates to their own games fairly soon.
-- Mark Medina
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