Lakers Report Cards: Devin Ebanks
Given that a fractured left tibia left him sidelined for the last two months, he only appeared in 20 games while averaging 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes a contest and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson often compares rookies to whale feces, the grade assigned to Ebanks is by no means an indictment on his performance level.
It points to the equivalent of Ebanks taking an advanced class, making the best circumstances of playing with a talented and veteran-heavy roster, nursing a long-term injury and receiving little playing time. But Ebanks impressed the Lakers enough that Jackson and players universally lauded his work ethic, defensive tenacity, calm demeanor and unassuming nature. Unlike some of the reserves, Ebanks improved as the season progressed and he possesses enough talent that the team's contention that his "time will come" goes beyond just trying to provide encouraging words. He soaked everything in, ranging from studying more video with Jackson, seeking advice from Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher as well as bonding with rookie Derrick Caracter. And though Jackson and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak instructed him to work on his ball handling and shooting, that suggestion also points to the fact that they're envisioning him to play more at shooting guard than at small forward.
Considering the uncertainty of whether Shannon Brown will opt out of his contract this offseason, it's plausible that Ebanks would play directly behind Bryant next season at shooting guard. In fact, had Ebanks not gotten injured, he likely would've been ahead of Luke Walton in the depth chart behind Ron Artest and Matt Barnes at small forward. But there's still plenty of work to do and it's not guaranteed the Lakers will keep Ebanks after this season. Despite all the potential he showed with his athleticism, quickness, defense and work ethic, Ebanks still appears raw with his shooting stroke (41.2%) and understanding of the triangle offense. His six-game stint with the Bakersfield 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, shows that these problems are all correctible with time and experience.
"This is my first year so I take it as a learning process," Ebanks said. "I'll come back and be ready to play."
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Photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks tries to score against the defense of FC Barcelona forward Boniface Ndong in an exhibition game. Credit: Andreu Dalmau / EPA