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Devin Ebanks unlikely to receive much playing time with Lakers

The day he announced Devin Ebanks as his starting small forward, Lakers Coach Mike Brown issued this warning.

"If he messes up," Brown said, "I'll pull him so quick that he won't play."

Brown surely backed up the tough talk. Two months after Ebanks started the first four games, the Lakers sent him down to their Development League, the D-Fenders. Brown spouted the cliches after Thursday's practice about the need for Ebanks to sharpen his post presence, outside shooting and defense. But as far as what that means for Ebanks' future playing time with the Lakers?

It's very likely anything Ebanks shows in his D-League stint will translate much at all with the purple and gold.

"The guys in front of him have to be playing really bad and we have to be playing really bad as a team in order for him to get an opportunity," Brown said regarding Ebanks, who has averaged just 2.7 points through 15 games for the Lakers.. "And he's got to keep bringing it every day."

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Lakers face hurdles in signing J.R. Smith

The Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that the Lakers are pursuing free agent J.R. Smith
--The Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that the Lakers are pursuing free agent J.R. Smith, but that they can offer him only about $450,000, the prorated portion of the veterans' minimum. Smith made $6.8 million last season with Denver. Bresnahan mentions that New York, Chicago, Indiana, Orlando and the Clippers are also pursuing Smith.

--The Times' Baxter Holmes mentions that Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro had a recent conversation with Smith.

--Sheridan Hoops' Mark Heisler ranks the Lakers at No. 9 in his power rankings. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky says he doesn't understand why Devin Ebanks hasn't cracked the rotation. 

--The Times' Chris Erskine compares Lakers fans with Clippers fans.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin notices that the Lakers had more fun playing Atlanta after seeing Jeremy Lin's heroics. 

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford explains how Steve Blake's return helps the Lakers. 

--Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson reports that the Minnesota Timberwolves have offered Derrick Williams and draft picks to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. 

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell talks with NBA-TV's Rick Kamla about the best players to interview. 

--Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap argues that the Lakers are a deeply flawed team. 

Tweet of the Day: "The NBA should use the couch Jeremy Lin slept on as some sort of obstacle in the All-Star skills competition." -- ZachLowe_SI (Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "Amazing, how a relative nothing like Smith, who went away to play in China like unwanted baseball players go to Japan, has become the object of the Lakers' search for the holy grail. And that they still may not be able to secure him! Sure, he can help out in several ways. But it sounds like they're banking on JR Smith to be the missing piece that will save the season for them. The state of the Lakers as a contender has become pathetic." -- Craig Hill

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: J.R. Smith, then with the Denver Nuggets, battles for a loose ball with Lakers Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant in 2010. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times 

Devin Ebanks assigned to D-Fenders

Devin Ebanks

In fewer than two months, Lakers forward Devin Ebanks went from a starter to a D-League player.

The Lakers formally assigned Ebanks Wednesday to the D-Fenders, their Development League affiliate, after averaging only 2.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 12.6 minutes through 12 games this season. 

Lakers Coach Mike Brown initially envisioned Ebanks in a much different role. After granting him the starting small forward spot over veterans Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace for the first four games, Brown demoted him to the third small forward because of inconsistency involving his shooting, defense and confidence. Still, Brown and Ebanks' teammates alike have raved about his work ethic, athleticism and potential.

That hardly translated, however, into Ebanks' ensuing eight appearances. He logged double-digit minutes in only two of those contests, posting a combined six points on one-of-six shooting. The rest of his appearances only came in garbage time. 

Ebanks played with the D-League's Bakersfield Jam last season, averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.50 steals in 27.7 minutes through six games. Ebanks' latest assignment marks his first one this season. Under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, teams can send a player to the D-League up to three times a season.

RELATED:

Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks support each other

Kobe Bryant remains high on Devin Ebanks

Devin Ebanks values Kobe Bryant's mentorship

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Blazers guard Jamal Crawford attempts a layup against the defense of Lakers forward Devin Ebanks in the fourth quarter Thursday night in Portland. Credit: Steve Dykes / EPA / January 5, 2012

Mike Brown admits struggles in handling compacted schedule

As he headed toward the trainer's room Monday, Lakers guard Derek Fisher simply shook his head. 

The Lakers' game tonight against the Phoenix Suns marks the second contest of a five-game stretch this week, leaving them with a late-night flight to Utah for Wednesday's game and Monday and Thursday as the only practice days. A reporter pointed out that next week's schedule of games against Dallas (Jan. 16), at Miami (Jan. 19) and at Orlando (Jan. 20) at least gives them four practice days. But that hardly assuaged Fisher's concerns.

When Coach Mike Brown stepped out toward the Lakers' practice court, Fisher said the following within earshot: "This week, we say we wish we had more practices, but when the practices come next week, we're going to say we need more rest."

Brown, Fisher and a small group of reporters laughed at the thought process, but it epitomizes an approach to this year's compacted schedule that Brown admits he's struggled handling. 

"I've been trying to teach and learn and all that, while not trying to do too much," he said. "But I have done that at times."

That's included three-hour practices. A few that were open to reporters included hourlong shooting sessions. After training camp started Dec. 9, the Lakers didn't have a single day off until Dec. 28, after playing three games on consecutive nights.

Brown initially wanted an even more intense schedule, but scrapped some of those plans. Instead of having six two-a-day sessions during training camp, the Lakers had three. Brown reduced the playbook to a third of its original size, and he has tried to limit recent morning shootarounds to no longer than 90 minutes. 

"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. We knew we would face adversity first. We knew all that coming in."

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Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks support each other

During a shooting drill, Lakers forwards Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks stood on opposite sides of the same basket hoisting jumpers.

Each time one went in, they shouted encouragement to each other. Lakers basketball operations assistant Kyle Triggs stood by collecting the balls. But if one landed out of Triggs' reach, both Ebanks and Barnes willingly hustled for the loose ball and passed it back to his teammate.

With Lakers Coach Mike Brown "still searching" for the best lineup rotation, Barnes and Ebanks have separated their hope to win the starting small forward spot from their support for each other.

"Guys have to be on their P's and Q's," Brown said, and that includes Ebanks and Barnes holding any frustration about their minutes in check.

Barnes' 16-point effort and strong defense on Monta Ellis in the Lakers' 97-90 win over the Golden State Warriors made Brown concede that a string of similar performances would "help out" his cause in landing a permanent starting spot. Meanwhile, Ebanks took a rapid fall after starting in the first four games to remaining on the bench in four of the last five. But Ebanks still relishes competing with Barnes.

"We're very supportive of each other," Ebanks said. "We know the business of the game. Somebody has to sit down. That's pretty much what it is."

When Ebanks started the first four games of the season, Barnes remained seated at the far end of the bench, even attempted to check himself in during one game he didn't play and received zero minutes in two of those contests. But he tweeted a congratulatory message to Ebanks on the starting spot and helped him keep his confidence level up.

"I definitely think it's a competitive spirit, but we're all still friends," Barnes said. "We all hang out. It's not a rivalry. When the other is out there, you cheer for them."

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Lakers' 100-91 loss to Sacramento Kings prompts concerns

Sportswriters and commentators look at the Lakers' 100-91 loss to the Sacramento Kings
Game stories

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan details the Lakers' fourth-quarter flameout in their 100-91 loss Monday to the Sacramento Kings. Bresnahan also notes that forward Josh McRoberts has a sprained left thumb but says he wants to play Tuesday against Utah. 

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding focuses on the Lakers' poor defense. 

--The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones highlights the Kings' ability to withstand the Lakers' late-game rally. 

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford notes that the Lakers have lost two consecutive games for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

Notebooks

--The Times' Bresnahan highlights Coach Mike Brown's comments that rebounding will determine how long Devin Ebanks keeps his starting job.

--The Sacramento Bee's Jones says Kings Coach Paul Westphal plans to limit minutes. 

--The Daily News' Teaford explains that the Lakers are playing in a more rugged style. 

Sidebars

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reports that the Lakers visited a cryotherapy clinic Monday before their game against Sacramento. 

Blogs

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down the Lakers' loss to Sacramento. 

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell provides a running diary of the Lakers-Kings game. 

--Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark explains why he thinks the Lakers aren't a championship team.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano focuses on a few points concerning the Lakers' loss.  

--Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller notes that Marcus Thornton beat Kobe Bryant at his own game. 

Tweet of the Day: "Sacramento just moved closer to a new arena. Drive to keep the Kings has been fueled by emotion, and beating Lakers is an emotional boost." -- SHowardCooper (NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "We have guys like Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts, Luke Walton, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Jason Kapono all playing roles for this years squad. No NBA team can win when you have this many bench fillers on your team. That's half of the team right there. And I'm not including Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Ron Artest, and Derek Fisher; who are either too young, too old, or too nutty. I'm putting an asterisk on this season.

Mitch needs to find a way to get some players. Dwight and DWill would be nice, but right now we need 2-3 more guys who can compete and defend against 1st string NBA players." --Gilberto Rocky Portillo

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Kobe Bryant tries to drive past Kings guard Marcus Thornton on Monday night in Sacramento. Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Things to take away from Lakers' 88-87 loss to Chicago Bulls

Lakers3_600

1. The Lakers blew the game in the final two minutes. The Lakers 88-87 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls points to the horrible execution in the final minute. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts both missed two fre throws. Kobe Bryant was wrongfully called for a personal foul on Luol Deng. Bryant committed a costly turnover. Derrick Rose then blew past both Derek Fisher and Gasol for a running-hook shot that gave the Bulls a 88-87 lead with 4.8 seconds remaining. Bryant could'n't provide any heroics, as his game-winning shot was blocked by Deng as time expired.

2. The Lakers can't handle the ball. Despite his relentless optimism about his team, Lakers Coach Mike Brown acknowledged being uncertain about whether the Lakers can reduce the 21.5 turnovers they averaged in two preseason games. They cut it to 16 turnovers, but it was a few too many, particularly in the final minutes.

3. The Lakers' early season success hinges on effort. This game hardly looked pretty, but it was winnable. This shows that the Lakers will have to simply outwork teams while still mastering Brown's system. The Lakers have the talent to do that, but they often lacked a grinding mentality in previous seasons. 

4. Bryant maintained aggressiveness despite wrist injury. He didn't follow Fisher's prediction that he'd open the game by shooting a 22-footer to prove his right wrist is healthy. Despite not wearing any device to protect the torn lunotriquetral ligament, Bryant maintained his aggressiveness and showed that it wouldn't affect his play or shot.

Bryant finished with 28 points on 11-of-23 shooting shooting in 35 minutes, attacking the basket as he would in any other game. He drove in for a reverse layup past Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer and Noah. He ran high pick-and-roll sets with Pau Gasol. He looked comfortable shooting pull-up jumpers. He even stole a pass with his right hand and connected with Derek Fisher on a fast break. 

It's obvious that Bryant's wrist injury at least partly contributed to his eight turnovers. He often committed those when he ran isolation sets that required a lot of dribbling. Bryant can mitigate that by limiting shots through spot-ups and off-the-ball movement. Still, it was a good showing considering the circumstances Bryant faced. That's why it's fitting Bryant puncuated the night by making a fall-away jumper that gave the Lakers an 87-81 lead with 54.6 seconds remaining.

5. The Lakers' defense appeared in flashes. The Lakers rotated their frontcourt so effectively to ensure Rose stayed out of the paint that he remained scoreless in the first quarter. But that effort didn't hold up as Rose finished with 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting. The Lakers appeared to communicate frequently on closeouts, but Chicago still went seven of 15 from three-point range. The Lakers showed effort defensively. They executed well at times in limiting Rose's drives, Chicago's inside presence and its outside shooting. But it wasn't always consistent.

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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."

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Devin Ebanks to start at small forward

Devin Ebanks

The Lakers hardly feel settled as they approach their opener Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.

Kobe Bryant continues to monitor the torn ligament in his right wrist. Andrew Bynum acknowledged the team's confusion about Mike Brown's offense. And who knows how much of the roster will remain intact before the March 15 trade deadline?

But there is at least clarity to what the Lakers' starting lineup will look like beginning Christmas Day against the Chicago Bulls. One position wasn't surprising. Free-agent Josh McRoberts will start at power forward, while Pau Gasol plays center during Bynum's four-game suspension. Another position was. Devin Ebanks will start at small forward just four days after Lakers Coach Mike Brown believed Matt Barnes had the "edge."

It turns out Ebanks' 7.5-point average on 77.8% shooting through two exhibition games made quite an impression.

"He didn't turn the ball over," Brown said of Ebanks. "When the ball came his way, he didn't force anything and he knocked down shots. Then he was solid defensively and didn't make any mental mistakes on the defensive end of the floor."

Ebanks' elevated role contrasts his limited role as a rookie last season, when he averaged 3.1 points in 5.9 minutes through 20 appearances.

The Lakers' sending Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks and Metta World Peace's demotion to the bench opened up that spot. But Ebanks' work ethic and off-season work on his shooting has already paid off.

"I'm ready to play either way," Ebanks said. "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."

Still, Brown made it clear that Ebanks could lose his spot if he makes mistakes or if Barnes elevates his play. After all, Barnes started training camp as the front-runner, but averaged only 1.5 points on 25% shooting and committed a flagrant foul type 1 in the team's second exhibition against Clippers forward Blake Griffin. That's why Brown said he talked with Barnes personally about losing out on the spot and instructed him to remain ready.

"He feels Devin is what the team needs to win," Barnes said. "He's the coach. I'm not going to argue. My job as a veteran is to stay ready, continue to encourage Devin and help him with ins and outs of the game. When my number is called, I'll be ready."

"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."

For Ebanks, that same approach is what landed him such an opportunity in the first place. 

"I just came out here and played every time I was out on the floor," Ebanks said. "The coaches noticed it. So I have the starting job now."

RELATED:

Mike Brown undecided about starting forward spot

Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

Devin Ebanks values Kobe Bryant's mentorship

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks will start at small forward. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times 

Mike Brown undecided about starting forward spot

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. 

RELATED:

Matt Barnes accuses Blake Griffin of flopping

Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

Devin Ebanks values Kobe Bryant's mentorship

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

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