Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes maintain professionalism for starting spot
The Lakers gave him an early Christmas present, but Devin Ebanks wasn't about to flaunt it.
The Lakers gave him a lump of coal, but Matt Barnes hardly questioned it.
Ebanks' present: The second-year player will make his first career start at small forward in the Lakers' Christmas Day opener against the Chicago Bulls. This happened a season after averaging only 3.1 points in 5.9 minutes through 20 appearances.
Barnes' lump of coal: The feisty veteran will come off the bench and become the Lakers' third small forward behind Ebanks and Metta World Peace. This happened only a week after Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Barnes had the "advantage" for the starting position.
The performances starting Sunday will answer how this scenario turns out. But the initial professionalism from Ebanks and Barnes in handling the competition suggests they're approaching it the right way.
Ebanks responded to his promotion with the same stoic demeanor he's displayed while toiling endlessly this offseason and during training camp on sharpening his game.
"I'm ready to play either way," said Ebanks, who spent the offseason taking at least 1,000 shots a day. "That was my focus going into training camp. And it's going to continue to be that way. I'm just going to do what I've been doing since training camp. I'm not going to let up on the hard work and things that they want me to do."
Barnes handled the demotion with a bit of honesty, but with well-reasoned perspective.
"It's going to suck," Barnes said. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's going to be hard. But I'm here to win a championship. Whatever role that may be from me playing, I'll play to the best of my ability."
It remains critical that both maintain that attitude. That's because Lakers Coach Mike Brown made it clear Ebanks' starting job hardly proves binding. He joked to Ebanks that he might be demoted after two of his jumpers hit me in the head during Brown's interview. He seriously stressed to both players their performance can dictate their playing time.
"It can change at any second," Brown said.
Both appear to understand that. Ebanks changed Brown's mind about who should start when he averaged 7.5 points on 77.8% shooting through two preseason games, limiting his turnovers and maximizing his hustle. Brown didn't say what caused Barnes' play to drop, but averaging 1.5 points on 25% shooting, failing to close out on shooters and getting a flagrant foul for pushing Clippers forward Blake Griffin surely didn't help.
Ebanks doesn't plan to dial back his intensity.
"I try not to think about things," Ebanks said. "I just go out and play as hard as I can."
Barnes plans to increase his intensity, while also supporting Ebanks.
"My job as a veteran is to stay ready and continue to encourage Devin," said Barnes, who also tweeted a congratulatory message to him. "Help him with little ins and outs of the game. If my number is called, I'll be ready. "
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