The Lakers appear patient about Kobe Bryant's recovery from a sore left shin so that he's healthy for the playoffs. Meanwhile, it has prompted Coach Mike Brown to start Devin Ebanks, who has spent most of the season out of the rotation, at shooting guard.
"Hopefully when Kobe comes back," Ebanks said, "Coach will still have me in the rotation to play."
That's unlikely to happen. Brown said Ebanks might still see playing time, but added that "there's not a ton of minutes there to play Kobe and Ebanks." He will have minutes Wednesday at Golden State, since Bryant is expected to miss his seventh consecutive game because of his shin injury.
In just his second season, Ebanks went from a rarely used reserve to the team's starting forward. Brown ended that experiment after four games, pushing Ebanks down the depth chart behind Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace. Even amid constant shuffling between Barnes and World Peace, Ebanks' role mostly remained the same. He even served a three-game stint last month with the Lakers' Development League affiliate, theD-Fenders.
Still, Brown chose Ebanks to start because Brown liked his length and athleticism and preferred to keep his bench rotation. Ebanks averaged 6.3 points on 43.6% shooting and 2.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes during his temporary starting stint. He attributes his readiness to his constant working on his game.
"I stay ready in every facet of my game," Ebanks said. "When it comes to working out in the gym, lifting weights and getting my shots up, I do all that."
Lakers development coach Phil Handy, who works Ebanks out daily, provided a more nuanced explanation.
"Devin has done a good job for the most part," Handy said. "He had some days where his frustration may have been here, which may have affected his ability to want to work, but our job as coaches is to help him get through that part and keep them motivated."
Meanwhile, Ebanks' agent, David Bauman, told The Times last month that Ebanks' limited playing time would probably prompt him to seek out a different team when he becomes a restricted free agent in July. Regardless, most of Ebanks' work has involved improved his shooting mechanics. Handy noticed that the 6-foot-9 Laker often shot with too quick a release. So Ebanks daily shoots 10 bank shots on each block, followed by 10 pull-up jumpers on the elbows.
While he has continually tinkered with his outside shooting, Ebanks has made an effort to attack the basket. That has helped him score on hustle plays and grab rebounds.
"It helps me as a player to stay active and be in tune with the game if I go out and do the little things," Ebanks said. "I feel I'm getting more comfortable with the starting unit."
That comfort level will end as early as Friday against San Antonio should Bryant return. But for now, Ebanks will enjoy his suddenly elevated role.
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