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Category: Devin Ebanks

Lakers can upgrade outside shooting from within

Lakers guard Steve Blake hopes to improve his shooting.

Every offseason workout involves some variation regarding the Lakers' shooting.

Guard Steve Blake spent part of his summer altering the arc of his shot. Forwards Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks as well as rookie guard Darius Morris said their main focus this offseason involved shooting. Though rookie Andrew Goudelock has mostly concentrated on improving his ballhandling and shooting, he said he still takes at least 1,000 shots per day. That doesn't include the likelihood that Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and, yes, even Metta World Peace have focused on last season's outside shooting inconsistency as well.

Offseason workouts should always be taken with a grain of salt. After all, when is the last time you heard an athlete admit they gained weight, regressed and took it easy during the offseason? Exactly zero. But I find it highly possible that the Lakers can improve their outside shooting collectively from last year's numbers. Then, the  Lakers shot 35.2% from the three-point range in the regular season, 28.9% in the postseason  and 37.5% from shots from within 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata. It's not a stretch to think Bryant (32.3%) will improve his shot after a prolonged restful offseason. The improvements individually may not seem like much. But any uptick from Fisher (39.6), Blake (37.8%) and World Peace (35.6%) could be vital. Small contributions from Ebanks, Goudelock and Morris would also help. 

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Five things ensuring Devin Ebanks a successful season for Lakers

Devin Ebanks' work ethic and athleticism could make him valuable to the Lakers next season.

This is the 11th in a series of reports that focus on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course).

1. Get re-signed. Devin Ebanks' future isn't entirely secure considering the Lakers have a team option on him worth $788,872. Even though Ebanks' numbers in the 2010-2011 season were modest (3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes a contest in only 20 games), the Lakers universally love his work ethic and high upside. Plus, Ebanks is the type of young, athletic and inexpensive player the Lakers actually need to bolster their veteran-laden roster. So it's a good chance he's returning. 

2. Successfully rehab. Ebanks didn't fully tap his potential last season because he spent the last two months rehabbing a fractured left tibia. Ebanks indicated in a phone interview last month that he's played basketball nonstop, including in a few Goodman League exhibition games. So it's safe to assume he'll be fine. But it's still critical he maintains that health.

3. Be prepared to play shooting guard. Ebanks spent most of this offseason working on his shooting because General Manager Mitch Kupchak envisions him playing more at shooting guard. Considering the Lakers have depth at small forward (Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes) and Shannon Brown likely won't return, this position gives Ebanks the best chance to play. Ebanks' offseason work on his shooting needs to pay off substantially because the Lakers simply don't have the funds to significantly upgrade their roster. Considering the Lakers' suffered in that department last season, any improved shooting marks from Ebanks would be a boost for the team and bolster his minutes. 

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Devin Ebanks aims to improve his shooting

Devin EbanksThe sequence plays like a never-ending loop.

Lakers forward Devin Ebanks enters the gym at the L.A. Sports Club in Washington, D.C. He goes through individual workouts mostly predicated on shooting and building strength with former West Virginia teammate John Flowers.

His shooting exercises are wide-ranging. Shoot jumpers off the ball. Shoot them coming off screens. Find an open jumper after performing a series of dribbles and crossovers. Repeat the exercises for both three-point shots and mid-range jumpers. Ebanks estimates he takes about 1,000 shots a day.

"It’s just a matter of getting reps and having the routine down," Ebanks said in a phone interview. "I’m trying to get that same routine every time I shoot."

Ebanks' work this summer, primarily in Washington, D.C., hardly appears glamorous. He hardly sounds excited talking about it, either. Underneath Ebanks' stoic and unassuming public persona, however, lies a 23-year-old basketball player wanting to work. Underneath Ebanks' repetitive routine reveals his intention in following advice passed along in his exit interview with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. 

Ebanks said he was never directly told whether the Lakers would exercise their $788,872 team option on him. The current NBA lockout forbids any team from making off-season moves. He was directly told, however, tangible ways to work on his game. One involves focusing more on shooting guard than at small forward where he played his rookie season. Another entails ensuring his weight stays around the 220- to 225-pound range. Meanwhile, Kupchak has said he liked Ebank's work ethic, attitude, athleticism and defensive intensity. This goes without saying, but it all comes with a cheap price tag.

"As far as I know, Mitch and everybody was happy with the way I played and performed," 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. "As far as I know, I’ll be a Laker next year." 

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NBA lockout: Which Lakers will spend their time wisely?

Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom

For all the concern that the NBA lockout might eat into all or part of the 2011-2012 NBA season, it'd be misguided for players to think that's simply extended vacation time.

Sure, it might prompt them to rest more, tap into more endorsement opportunities or engage in the cliched exercise this off-season by "remaining open to playing overseas." But the smart NBA players will remain prepared just in case the season starts on time. That naturally leads to questions of who on the Lakers will be ready for that scenario. Click below the jump to find out.

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Cheshire Jets official: Team has offered Ron Artest a stake

Ron Artest

Amid all the tweets from Ron Artest suggesting he may play with the British Basketball League's Cheshire Jets during the NBA lockout, an official told the team website that the organization has offered him a "stake" in the team.

"We are honored that Ron has even mentioned the prospect of joining the Jets," said Peter Hawkins, the director of the team. "Financially we have nothing to offer him, but it would be so significant for U.K. basketball. We have offered him a stake in the club and all the love in the world! To have a genuine NBA superstar even considering coming to the BBL is massive news for our sport and could be the launch pad we need in this country to give the sport the profile it deserves; it might even get the BBC interested in showing the sport!"

Artest's publicist, Courtney Barnes, told The Times on Tuesday that Artest plans to be in Britain from Aug. 18 to Aug. 23 to talk with team officials about possibly playing overseas. However, Barnes added that he hasn't made a concrete decision on the matter. The Jets' website indicates that their season begins on Sept. 30 and runs through April 22. Should Artest join the team, FIBA rules would require him to rejoin the Lakers as soon as the NBA lockout ends. 

The Times previously reported that Artest would play with the Jets, although it wasn't clear when he would first put on the uniform, according to a person who was familiar with the negotiations but wasn't authorized to speak about the matter publicly. That person has since said they misunderstood the question and that the deal has not been finalized.

On Tuesday afternoon, Artest noted the possibility of playing with the Jets on Twitter. He posted a picture of Jets center Matt Schneck holding a jersey that referenced the Lakers star's proposed name change to Metta World Peace. He also tweeted the following message: "Go Jets!!!!! Uk , here we come!!! Jets are the best!!! Jets are the best!!! New chant!!!!!!!!!"

Below the jump are more Lakers-related links

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How will the Lakers' bench perform under Mike Brown?

Mike Brown

The questions surrounding the Mike Brown hire centers on a few fundamental questions.

First and foremost, there's hand-wringing over whether he's the right man to coach the Lakers. Fueled partly by Kobe Bryant's refusal to comment on the hire and by the widely held perception that the Cavaliers fired him in 2010 to appease LeBron James, many wonder how Brown will work with the Lakers' superstar.

Because of Brown's hope to have a faster-paced offense and mostly scrap the triangle system, many believe that Derek Fisher will have a reduced role. And with Brown's hope to have an offense centered on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum receiving looks off pick-and-rolls, many wonder how that philosophy will mix with Brown wanting to still ensure Bryant receives a high volume of shots in his sweet spots. 

There's also one significant area that will determine Mike Brown's success on the Lakers, the team's bench. It's difficult to fully evaluate this issue because the Lakers' roster might be different when the 2011-12 season actually starts, if it starts at all. In light of an uncertain collective bargaining agreement and the Lakers' long-term deals to their core roster, both owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have continuously said they want to make "tweaks" to the roster, a code word that acknowledges the Lakers' financial limitations and the likelihood that any changes will be made among the reserves rather than the starters.

And there's some uncertainty regarding who from the 2010-11 Lakers bench will return, including Lamar Odom (whose two-year, $17-million contract is an attractive option for other teams), Shannon Brown (who opted out of his $2.37-million contract), Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks (both of whom have team options for $788,872) and rookies Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Ater Majok (each of which has received no guarantee from Kupchak that he will make the actual roster). 

After the jump is my take on which of the Lakers reserves are likely to remain on the team and how they will fare under Brown. 

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NBA lockout: Looking at how the players plan to spend their off-season


If a week felt like an eternity, try six months or maybe even a year.

It's unclear how long this NBA lockout is going to last. But it's safe to go on that vacation or run that errand without worrying about what team acquired who during free agency. But that doesn't mean things aren't busy. There's plenty of discussion brewing already on whether NBA players, including Kobe Bryant, should take their talents overseas during a possibly prolonged lockout. As detailed below, it's obvious many of the Lakers have plenty to occupy their time during a long off-season.

Kobe Bryant: It seems like every single day he’s in the news. Of course, that’s understandable given he’s Kobe Bryant. But it’s also a reflection of how busy his off-season has already become. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner reported that Bryant underwent a derivation of platelet rich plasma therapy (PSP), a controversial procedure that entails centrifuging the patient's blood to isolate platelets and growth factors and then then injected them into an injured area to accelerate healing. Bryant announced an initiative with his foundation to fight homelessness. And Bryant, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, remains open to playing overseas this summer. The possibilities entail joining a barnstorming tour where some of Rob Pelinka’s clients play exhibition games in China, while Turkish club, Besiktas, hopes Bryant will follow Deron Williams’ lead and join the team.

Pau Gasol: He’s spending his off-season in his native Spain where he spent the first portion of the off-season resting and mentally removing himself from a frustrating 2011 playoff performance. But he’s not going to spend the off-season resting like he did last year. Gasol plans to play in the European Championships in Lithuania from Aug. 31 to Sept. 18, partly to immediately rectify the poor playoff showing.

Andrew Bynum: For once, Bynum can enjoy a summer being completely injury-free. So after a short week of vacation in England where he enjoyed the Manchester United-Barcelona Champions league game, Bynum immediately began training in hopes to improve his footwork and reading double teams. Part of that effort has entailed taking boxing lessons to improve his agility and quickness. 

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Assigning Buddhism-related names to Lakers roster


In nearly two months, Lakers forward Ron Artest will officially find out whether he can legally change his name to Metta World Peace.

He filled out papers Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court requesting the name change, citing "personal reasons." It remains uncertain if Laker fans would throw away Artest jerseys in favor of a "World Peace" one. In addition to the ongoing question of what name Artest will actually choose to have on the back of his jersey, the L.A. County Superior Court has to approve the name change, which Artest won't know until Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. 

Metta, a Buddhist term, is defined as a "strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others," which certainly jives with Artest's advocacy for mental health charities. Should other teammates feel compelled to follow suit and request Buddhist-inspired names (probably not), there's no need to brainstorm ideas. I already consulted this website and did it for them. Below the jump are the results and a possible explanation for each name. 

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NBA mock drafts rarely highlight Lakers' picks

6a00d8341c506253ef015432ed85f6970c-320wiNBA mock drafts are a yearly ritual. But the only buzz you hear surrounding this year's draft are crickets, giving everyone more reason to mock the draft than actually make one (unless we're talking about Jimmer Fredette). 

Talk surrounding the NBA primarily centers on a collective bargaining agreement that expires in nine days. The uncertainty surrounding the 2011-2012 season prompted 41 players to withdraw their names from the draft. And in the case of the Lakers, any chance of the front office "blowing up this team" has a probability of nearly zero considering that their four second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 (unless of course the Lakers fall into David Kahn's trap in trading Pau Gasol to Minnesota, but plenty of reports indicate that would require them being held at gunpoint).

The Lakers' past draft history indicates, however, that the players they select at least have some chance to stay on the team's roster. Six of the 13 players the Lakers selected in the second round since 2003 currently played in the NBA last season. Below is a look at how those draft picks fared.

Luke Walton (drafted No. 32 in 2003 from University of Arizona)

The mere mention of his name creates mob-like hysteria for one very simple reason. Walton's 11.4 points per game on 47.4% shooting in the 2006-07 season truly indicated an average player playing with an average team. But it somehow convinced General Manager Mitch Kupchak to sign Walton to a six-year, $30-million contract.

The long-term deal has hurt the Lakers because Walton's extensive injury history kept him sidelined for 17 games in the 2008-09 season and all but 29 games in the 2009-10 season. Even with Walton at full strength, however, his value in understanding the triangle and being a good teammate nowhere near compensated for his lack of athleticism, poor shooting percentage and below-par defense. 

Walton's long-term deal also has hurt the Lakers because it significantly sapped them from making  moves that could've bolstered the roster. Walton's defense may be suspect, but his contract easily swatted down potential moves, such as the Lakers acquiring a backup center to help Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's injury last season, the team trading away Sasha Vujacic to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smithand a $4-million cash profit, and the team's tightening finances in the 2010 off-season to the likes of Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, and Matt Barnes

The damage is far from over, with Walton still with two years remaining on his $11.48-million contract. But lost in this hysteria involves this reality: It's not Walton's fault the Lakers signed him to the deal. Point that finger at the front office. 

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D-Fenders to rejoin Development League and play home games at Lakers' practice facility

After taking a one-year hiatus, the Lakers' minor-league affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, will return to the NBA Development League, albeit with a change of venue.

The team will play its home games at the Lakers' practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center, in El Segundo, a switch from the previous routine of playing at Staples Center four hours before Lakers regular-season games.

The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported last year that D-Fenders games didn't generate any revenue from ticket sales because only people who had bought Lakers tickets were allowed to attend the games. Bresnahan also noted that the games often took place in front of no more than 100 people, though Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak frequently was in attendance.

During the 2010-2011 season, the Lakers used the Bakersfield Jam as their minor-league affiliate, sending rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter there on separate stints and recalling Trey Johnson before the last game of the regular season. But the Jam also was an affiliate of the Clippers. With the D-Fenders' return, the D-League now features seven teams with lone NBA affiliates.

"We're thrilled to welcome the Los Angeles D-Fenders back to the NBA Development League," NBA D-League President Dan Reed said in a statement. "The Lakers have been an outstanding partner with the NBA D-League for years, and their return further reinforces our growing significance to the NBA -– especially considering they are now one of seven NBA teams with a 'one-to-one' affiliation. We're excited about the terrific fan experience they plan to provide at Toyota Sports Center."

-- Mark Medina

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