Lakers forward Devin Ebanks dribbles the ball during a game against Charlotte… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Within a three-month span, Devin Ebanks' stint with the Lakers this season has taken many twists and turns.
In just his second season, Ebanks went from a rarely used reserve to the team's starting forward. Coach Mike 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, the D-Fenders.
Ebanks maintained he's "just staying a professional at all times" and hopes that "my name is called." But if it doesn't, Ebanks' agent suggested the biggest twist might take place when Ebanks becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.
"If [Coach] Mike Brown is going to play with Matt Barnes and [World Peace] next season, Devin's not going to come back and do that," Ebanks' agent, David Bauman told The Times. "He'll find an opportunity where he'll have a better chance to break into a rotation."
So far, that hasn't happened.
Ebanks has averaged 2.5 points on 37% shooting in 11.8 minutes in 13 games this season. Brown has said "the guys in front of him have to be playing really bad" before Ebanks would play more minutes. He's also said Ebanks needs to improve more on his defense, shooting and rebounding.
It also remains to be seen what the Lakers' front office does with their other small forwards.
They may exercise the amnesty clause to waive World Peace, who entered this season with a three-year, $21.8-million contract. Barnes is in the last year of a contract that pays him $1.91 million and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Lakers will also have the right to match any offer Ebanks receives.
Despite a reduced role, Ebanks' age (22), current salary ($788,872) and work ethic could make him a sound investment for the Lakers. They are seeking both to avoid harsher luxury tax penalties stemming from the new collective bargaining agreement and to add more youth to their roster.
"There definitely is a sense of loyalty," Bauman said. "Mitch Kupchak from Day One has been very supportive of Devin and said, 'If you work hard and do what we ask of you, you will have a chance here and be around the NBAfor a long time.'"
Ebanks hasn't looked ahead to his playing future, saying it's simply "a privilege to be in the NBA."
Instead, he's maintained his practice routine by taking 200 shots a day. He also tried to make an impression in his three-game stint with the D-Fenders last month in which he averaged 18.3 points, six rebounds, two steals in 32 minutes a game.
"Ebanks was phenomenal and he had a great attitude," D-Fenders Coach Eric Musselman said. "He bought into what we were doing. Some guys on assignment are a little reluctant. Devin wasn't that way at all."
Still, it remains to be seen whether that determined attitude will eventually crack him into the Lakers' rotiation in future seasons, or just lead to an exit elsewhere. Regardless, Ebanks has maintained the same approach.
"It just makes you work harder and try to get back to where you were at," Ebanks said. "I just go to the gym knowing I can get better every day."