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Category: Devin Ebanks

Things to watch in second Lakers-Clippers preseason game

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers and Clippers meet tonight for their second preseason matchup:

1. How much improvement will the Lakers make on defense? The Lakers' 114-95 loss to the Clippers on Monday highlighted plenty of reasons why Coach Mike Brown remains upset with the team's defensive effort -- including closing out on perimeter shooters, a huge factor in why the Clippers went 13 of 28 from three-point range. There's also the problem of getting back on transition defense, a large part of why the Clippers scored 29 points off the Lakers' 21 turnovers. And there's also the matter of the Lakers having little answer for Chris Paul's 17 points.

The Lakers' first preseason game was a potent reminder that they'll likely struggle for most of the season in defending against quick teams and stopping fast-break points. One practice session won't rectify that. But the Lakers and, most notably, Kobe Bryant can easily improve on closing out on shooters. Part of it is the team's learning curve, because most of the concepts last season centered on forcing drivers into the lane. Brown's defense has similar ideas in that department, but it also stresses keeping perimeter shooters honest.

2. Can the Lakers' offensive chemistry improve? Everyone -- Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum included -- acknowledged making reads and cuts that mirrored Phil Jackson's offense at different times during Monday's game. That led to confusion on how the Lakers should run Brown's "strong corner" offense, making the inside production from Gasol (16 points) and Bynum (15 points) pretty deceptive. Because the Lakers' offense hinges more on their production, such mishaps will significantly weaken their options.

3. How much should Kobe play? The Lakers diagnosed him with a sprained right wrist after taking a fall during Monday's game, but he practiced Tuesday and is expected to play in the rematch. But it'd be a good idea for Brown to minimize Bryant's minutes so he can heal and the Lakers can further figure out who should play behind him at shooting guard. 

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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."

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Kobe Bryant remains high on Devin Ebanks

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."

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Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Just like everyone else consumed with NBA basketball, Lakers forward Matt Barnes listens to the trade rumors.

Not all of them. He says he only cares about whether a rumor involves the Lakers. But unlike the average NBA fan, he has -- and is willing to share -- some insider knowledge, particularly when it involves any possibility his former teammates Dwight Howard or Baron Davis could join the Lakers.

"I've talked to both of those guys and they want to be here," Barnes said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "We'll see what happens."

We sure will. But don't start pre-ordering Howard or Davis Lakers jerseys just yet. The Lakers face an unfortunate reality: A $91-million payroll, increased luxury taxes and increased revenue sharing suddenly make General Manager Mitch Kupchak worried about finances. 

"Based on our financial structure, we would be very limited in what we can do with our team in terms of free agency in the next two weeks," Kupchak said.

Fair enough. Last year, the Lakers could offer free agents a five-year, $32-million contract. This year, they can only offer a mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million, as well as a veteran's minimum of one year and $1 million. Short term, the Lakers may only need to address low-hanging fruit, such as formally cutting ties with Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff, likely letting Shannon Brown go, exercising $788,872 team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and signing rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. 

But as the Lakers begin free agency on Dec. 9, they can't let such scenarios inhibit their risk-taking. It's a no-brainer to pursue Howard, but it involves much more creative structuring of deals than when picking up peripheral players. It's a no-brainer to pursue Chris Paul once free agency hits next season, but why wait when he's reportedly demanding a trade to New York?

Kupchak may feel confident that the Lakers can win a title with the current roster, but playing it safe could hurt the team's long-term future once Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's contracts end after the 2013-14 seasons.

Of course, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has thrived on risk-taking. But as an avid poker player, he knows that doesn't always require having the most chips. It also requires doing the most thinking. 

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Mitch Kupchak says Lakers will be 'very limited' in free agency

Mitch Kupchak

The Lakers roster that takes the floor at Staples Center on Christmas could look a lot like the one that shows up when training camp starts a week from Friday.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday during a media conference at the team's training facility in El Segundo that he would be "very limited" as far as bringing in free agents. Depending on whether shooting guard Shannon Brown decides to re-sign with the team, the Lakers could target a guard and forward in free agency but have limited options to acquire them.

They can use the so-called mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million as well as a veteran's minimum of $1 million, leaving the Lakers hoping that quality players will want to come to Los Angeles for other reasons besides money.

"We're hopeful there's a player out there who's made money in his career and is on the back end and is looking at a championship, or a player who is developing," Kupchak said. "That's harder to do."

Kupchak said he did not anticipate that Theo Ratliff or Joe Smith would be returning to the roster, but he confirmed that he had been in contact with Brown's agent. The Lakers can exercise team options on second-year players Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and must decide whether to sign second-round draft picks Darrius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

Kupchak almost sounded resigned to losing Brown, who has been a free agent at the end of each of his seasons with the Lakers and has explored more lucrative offers elsewhere.

"My guess is, you can only continue to do that for such a period of time where it doesn't make any more sense," Kupchak said, "so I would think this year he would look for and probably get a package that's financially much more attractive than we could offer under the present rules."

Morris, Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes were among the Lakers who stopped by the team's training facility for informal workouts Friday. Coach Mike Brown briefly hailed Fisher from across the court before smiling and putting his finger to his lips, a nod to the fact that coaches are not supposed to speak with players before the NBA lockout formally ends.

With only 16 days to hold practices before the Lakers' opener, the coach said he would try not to overwhelm his players. And what would he call Metta World Peace?

"I might just call him Metta or Met," Brown said. "I don't want to call him Peace, because he might think that's grounds for him to leave practice."

We'll have more later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Ben Bolch

Photo: "We believe in this group," Mitch Kupchak says of the current Lakers roster. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

Lakers reach out to Devin Ebanks

Devin Ebanks

The Lakers couldn't say much to forward Devin Ebanks when he entered the team facility Thursday for voluntary workouts.

But that's OK. Though conversation remains minimal between team officials and players since the new labor deal hasn't been officially ratified, the front office and agents can talk. And with Wednesday marking the first day NBA teams and agents could have such dialogue, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak reached out to Ebanks' representative. The Lakers are expected to exercise their $788,872 option on the second-year player.

"He'll be fine," Ebanks' agent, David Bauman, said Thursday night. "I spoke to Mitch yesterday morning and it looks like they need young bodies and cheap contracts."

Ebanks, 21, appeared in 20 games as a rookie, averaging 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes a game. But the Lakers have remained high on Ebanks for his potential to play at shooting guard in case they don't re-sign Shannon Brown. Ebanks landed in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon and arrived at the Lakers' facility, marking only the third player besides rookie Darius Morris and Metta World Peace to attend the first day of voluntary workouts. That epitomizes what the Lakers like about Ebanks' unassuming work ethic. 

"Got some good shots up today," Ebanks tweeted. "Comin bak Lata on tho! Late session."

RELATED:

Devin Ebanks aims to improve his shooting

Lakers Q&A: Devin Ebanks doesn't regret decision to go pro after two seasons at West Virginia

Five things ensuring Devin Ebanks a successful season for Lakers

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks believes he will return to the team next season. Credit: Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times

Lakers have limited participation in first practice session

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The NBA lockout may have ended, but the Lakers' practice facility Thursday remained as quiet as ever.

They officially opened its doors for players under contract, unsigned rookies and free agents interested in working out. But many didn't take up the team's offer. In fact, only three players actually attended, according to a team spokesperson, including Lakers forward Devin Ebanks, Lakers rookie guard Darius Morris and, of all people, Metta World Peace. For whatever reason, however, the Laker player formerly known as Ron Artest arrived in street clothes. With the Lakers withholding media access, the only details we have come courtesy of Ebanks' Twitter account where he posted a photo of his unkept locker.

"Got some good shots up today," Ebanks tweeted. "Comin bak Lata on tho! Late session."

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NBA lockout: Which Lakers should play overseas?

Kobe Bryant

Lakers who shouldn't play overseas

Kobe Bryant -- As stated numerous times, there's no value for Bryant to risk injury by playing overseas. Save any barnstorming exceptions, Bryant should simply rest no matter how long the NBA lockout lasts.

Pau Gasol -- He'll remain in Spain for most of the lockout, and I'm told he remains noncommital on any plans until the NBA officially cancels the entire season. But Gasol would be better off just continuing his training with FC Barcelona and then resting. 

Andrew Bynum -- Bynum's finally enjoyed a full off-season injury-free. It's allowed him to box and work on his post moves. Going overseas would only increase the chances his knees would fail him again.

Derek Fisher -- Even if he doesn't have a direct role in NBA lockout negotiations anymore, he'd still need to be around as a sounding board.

Metta World Peace -- It's unlikely Ron Ron can actually spread world peace. His agent, David Bauman, has remained skeptical in shipping him off because he hasn't been able to get insurance. Risking three years on his $21.8-million contract isn't worth it.

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Despite lockout, Devin Ebanks is 'staying ready' for 2011-12 season

The anxiety strikes Devin Ebanks at various times of the night and day.

The feeling comes late at night because he can no longer visit the Lakers' practice facility at odd hours to work on his shooting. It also comes in the morning because it proves more difficult participating in pickup scrimmages with his teammates. He feels that way more and more because he's running out of things to do.

After spending most of his summer in Washington, D.C., Ebanks flew to Los Angeles last week just in case the NBA owners and players union reached a deal. Instead, Ebanks continues toiling in his daily routine of firing 1,000 shots a day while wondering when the lockout will end.  

"I’m just ready to play," Ebanks said at a recent promotional appearance for Sungevity, a solar rooftop specialist. "I'm ready for them to make a deal."

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Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks to be at Sungevity promotion

Ron Artest for Sungevity

With NBA players out of work, there are ways to maintain at least part of their cushy incomes.

A few have taken their talents overseas. Some have increased their commercial and product endorsements. And then there are others, such as Lakers forwards Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks, that are returning to more humble origins.

You know, like giving away ice pops. This isn't Ron Ron and Ebanks driving around in an ice cream truck, exactly. It's supposed to be more energy efficient. They'll be giving away ice pops Nov. 11 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Hollywood-Highland center while promoting Sungevity, a residential company that features an ice cream truck that runs on solar panels and bio fuel. The truck also features installed i-Pads that will provide potential customers with an i-quote for installing solar panels on their homes.

A Sungevity spokesperson confirmed World Peace and Ebanks would be compensated an unspecified amount. David Bauman, who represents both World Peace and Ebanks as their agent, couldn't be immediately reached for comment. For World Peace, this venture may not exactly match his effort in applying to Best Buy earlier in his career so he could receive a customer discount. But at least he'll be able to listen to the ice cream music jingles.

RELATED:

Metta World Peace performs with Slam Girls

Metta World Peace's daughter stars in music video

Concerns about Ron Artest's distractions miss the point

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com and follow the Lakers blog on Facebook

Photo: Lakers forward Metta World Peace will serve free ice pops Nov. 11 between Hollywood and Highland Blvd. to promote Sungevity's ice pop truck. Credit: Sungevity.

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