Devin Ebanks values Kobe Bryant's mentorship
Everywhere he goes, Devin Ebanks finds Kobe Bryant in his ear.
It goes back to when he sat on the sideline for most of the 2010-11 season, and Bryant pointed out on-court tendencies to the Lakers' rookie. It extends to the Lakers' current training camp where Bryant said he's been "working around the clock" with Ebanks on his game, ranging from working out before practice, encouraging him to create a shot for himself and pulling him aside whenever he makes mistakes. And it goes to where Bryant has publicly touted Ebanks this week for having a chance to elevate his role at both small forward and shooting guard.
Bryant's compliments toward Ebanks go beyond finding someone -- anyone -- to mitigate the losses from the Lakers trading Lamar Odom to Dallas and the Lakers losing Shannon Brown to Phoenix through free agency. Bryant has shown personal investment in Ebanks' development, and the unassuming second-year player readily admits how much it's made a difference.
"It's good to hear from our best player," 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. "It gives me a lot more confidence for me to go out there and do my job. I come out there, play hard and do what I have to do on the court."
In the Lakers' intrasquad scrimmage at USC on Friday, Ebanks provided a glimpse on how he can translate both his off-season work that entailed shooting at least 1,000 shots a day and working out at shooting guard.According to the teams unofficial boxscore, Ebanks scored 12 points, went 4-for-6 from the field, 4-for-4 from the foul line and added two assists and a steal in the 36-minute scrimmage.
His effort also showed how Ebanks has implemented some of Bryant's advice. Some of his baskets appeared eerily similar to what Bryant often shows, albeit with a much higher skillset. Ebanks nailed one shot over Bryant on the baseline. He curled off a screen, penetrated the wing and sunk a catch-and-shoot jumper. He created off the dribble for a pull-up jumper.
"It's great to see him not be afraid, step up and take the right shots," said Lakers Coach Mike Brown, who is considering Ebanks, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton to start at small forward. "I don't think [Ebanks] forced anything. I thought he let it come to him. If he's out there with his starting group, that's what he's going to have to do because I won't call a play for him ... It was evident by his play, you can see why Kobe's excited about Devin."
That excitement even extends to last season. Bryant largely respects players that possess an uncanny work ethic, regardless of skill level. So even when Ebanks faced limited playing time and multiple stints with the Bakersfield Jam, he said Bryant often instructed him to remain patient. "Keep working hard and your time will come," Ebanks recalled Bryant telling him last season.
And though Brown rightfully needs to see how Ebanks' hard work, patience, defensive consistency and a stronger shooting stroke will translate into regular-season games, Ebanks has one significant mentor to credit for even being considered for a starting spot.
"He's been very helpful," Ebanks said of Bryant. "If he sees something, he'll let me know."
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