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Mike Brown undecided about starting forward spot

December 23, 2011 | 10:22 am

The Lakers' preseason games were supposed to add clarity on who would start at small forward. Instead, it's just brought more uncertainty for Coach Mike Brown.

Just days after claiming Matt Barnes had the edge over Devin Ebanks because of his experience and consistency, Brown maintained after Thursday's practice that the starting spot still remains up in the air.

"I'm jumping back and forth between Matt and Devin," Brown said. "Just looking at the practices in general will give me a little bit of a better idea."

Ebanks incredibly outplayed Barnes through two preseason games in points (7.5, 1.5) and field-goal percentage (77.8%, 25%) while playing similar minutes (12.5, 11). Kobe Bryant wasn't blowing smoke when he constantly praised Ebanks during training camp, but few expected he'd elevate his game to this degree. Meanwhile, Barnes hardly showcased any positive traits. He didn't close out on perimeter defense several times. In the second preseason game, Barnes shoved Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the ground, earning him a flagrant foul type 1.

But this competition goes beyond who plays better during preseason games, a misleading sign of how things will play out in the regular season. It also involves how Barnes and Ebanks mesh together in the starting and reserve units. 

"The one thing that I'm looking for from that spot with the particular guys that are out there is, I need that guy to be able to defend," Brown said. "I need that guy to be able to rebound. I need that guy to be able to run the floor every possession. I need him to make no mistakes if at all possible. And then when he's open, step in and knock that shot down, knowing that he may not get the ball all the time."

Mistakes for Barnes would likely include committing silly and often aggressive fouls. Mistakes for Ebanks could involve just the inevitable learning curve he's going through as a second-year player. It appeared to be a no-brainer at the beginning,with Barnes' experience level and willingness to contribute on hustle plays possibly giving him the advantage. But Ebanks' highly elevated play has brought further wrinkles to the debate. Fortunately for the Lakers, they finally have more depth at one position when they sorely lack that in most others. 


Matt Barnes accuses Blake Griffin of flopping

Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

Devin Ebanks values Kobe Bryant's mentorship

--Mark Medina

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