Devin Ebanks aims to improve his shooting
Lakers forward Devin Ebanks enters the gym at the L.A. Sports Club in Washington, D.C. He goes through individual workouts mostly predicated on shooting and building strength with former West Virginia teammate John Flowers.
His shooting exercises are wide-ranging. Shoot jumpers off the ball. Shoot them coming off screens. Find an open jumper after performing a series of dribbles and crossovers. Repeat the exercises for both three-point shots and mid-range jumpers. Ebanks estimates he takes about 1,000 shots a day.
"It’s just a matter of getting reps and having the routine down," Ebanks said in a phone interview. "I’m trying to get that same routine every time I shoot."
Ebanks' work this summer, primarily in Washington, D.C., hardly appears glamorous. He hardly sounds excited talking about it, either. Underneath Ebanks' stoic and unassuming public persona, however, lies a 23-year-old basketball player wanting to work. Underneath Ebanks' repetitive routine reveals his intention in following advice passed along in his exit interview with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Ebanks said he was never directly told whether the Lakers would exercise their $788,872 team option on him. The current NBA lockout forbids any team from making off-season moves. He was directly told, however, tangible ways to work on his game. One involves focusing more on shooting guard than at small forward where he played his rookie season. Another entails ensuring his weight stays around the 220- to 225-pound range. Meanwhile, Kupchak has said he liked Ebank's work ethic, attitude, athleticism and defensive intensity. This goes without saying, but it all comes with a cheap price tag.
"As far as I know, Mitch and everybody was happy with the way I played and performed," said Ebanks, who appeared in 20 games his rookie season while averaging 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes a contest. "As far as I know, I’ll be a Laker next year."
Like any NBA player these days, Ebanks remains open to playing overseas should a lockout persist. He said his agent, David Bauman, has already informed him he received three unspecified offers to play overseas. They both agreed, however, that he's better suited at this point to work on his game in case a collective bargaining agreement happens in time to salvage at least part of the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Ebanks has engaged in unspecified strength-training exercises so he can absorb more contact, maintain the slim figure that contributed to his mobility and better prevent an injury, such as the fractured left tibia he suffered last season that has since fully healed. He said he appeared in three or four pickup games with the Goodman League that confirmed his added strength has taken his game "to another level."
Even though he's played a bit of phone tag while trying to touch base with Coach Mike Brown, Ebanks received a series of DVDs that illustrated his role on offense and defense. Those DVDs sparked Ebanks to work mostly on his shooting, particularly since the Lakers shot just 35.2% from three-point range in the 2010-2011 regular season and a dismal 28.9% in the postseason.
Browns' footage also confirmed to Ebanks that he doesn't have to worry too much about defensive drills since, he argued, defense mostly points to effort rather than perfecting any fundamentals. "You have your guy not wanting to score basically," he said. "That’s a mentality I take every time."
It also appears Ebanks has taken that mentality regarding his off-season work, most notably on those repetitive shooting exercises. He isn't altering his shooting stroke like Steve Blake said he has by adding more arch to his shots. He's just ensuring familiarity with taking shots of all ranges.
"I don’t have a problem shooting the ball, but I want to get comfortable enough to the point where I can shoot any type of way," Ebanks said. "As long as I’m trying to stick with that same routine. I’ll be fine."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks believes he will return to the team next season. Credit: Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times