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Kobe Bryant remains high on Devin Ebanks

December 13, 2011 |  4:05 pm

Out of sight from most observers, Lakers forward Devin Ebanks continually arrived at pregame warmups last season early. Mostly, it'd be the only time he'd get to shoot at the Staples Center courts.

During the prolonged lockout, Ebanks missed the days he could stroll into the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo at midnight and shoot in the early hours. So he just stayed with his former West Virginia teammate John Flowers in Washington D.C. and took at least 1,000 shots per day.

And throughout his rookie season, Ebanks minimized his social life and had no interest in even pursuing branding opportunities, according to a person close to him, for one simple reason. He wanted to work on his game.

The Lakers remained high on Ebanks because of that work ethic, and exercised his $788,872 team option mostly because of it. And with the Lakers fielding a depleted roster following Lamar Odom's trade to Dallas and Shannon Brown's departure to Phoenix, the Lakers are casting Ebanks with a higher role, led by one key figure.

"We believe he had potential last year,"  Kobe Bryant said of Ebanks, who appeared in 20 games his rookie season while averaging 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes. "He was just too young to get out there and do it. This year, he has a little bit more knowledge of the game and a little bit more poise. He has a great skillset, is very underrated offensive player and good defensive player. We think he's going to be fine."

So fine that Bryant envisions Ebanks as the next Trevor Ariza, an unassuming wing player capable of defending small forwards and shooting guards and possessing a lethal outside shot. First he must recover from a sore Achilles that caused him to sit out of part of Tuesday's practice. 

"I feel like I can definitely feel a part," Ebanks said, "but that's something for Coach Brown to decide."

And that's where it remains uncertain. Brown compared Ebanks' speed to a deer and is willing to play him at the backup shooting guard and small forward positions. But there was one instance in Saturday's practice that highlights Brown's concern about his confidence level. Brown stopped a fast-break drill because he noticed Ebanks was playing the wrong position, an error that prompted Ebanks to immediately own up to, while looking down on the ground.

"Don't feel bad," Brown said at the time. "Don't drop your shoulders. I want you to get it right."

"He's definitely easier than Phil on the offensive end," Ebanks said. "The offense is regular NBA sets that other teams may have ran and we played against. It's not too hard to fall in. It's just about gettng aclimated to what he wants."

And what Brown and Bryant want entails Ebanks becoming fully prepared to help mitigate Odom's absence.

"Ebanks just has to do his job," Bryant said. "He's a very good defensive player. A much better offensive player than we expected him to be. I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised about him."

--Mark Medina

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