The quiet motor in Devin Ebanks hardly yields much insight in interviews. A man of few words yet at the same time gracious, Ebanks has let his actions on the court give testament to his ongoing development entering his third season with the Lakers.
Whether it was under Phil Jackson or now with Mike Brown, the coaches have loved how Ebanks stays within his lane, devotes time to his craft and minimizes mistakes when given an opportunity. It's also part of the reason why the Lakers re-signed him to a one-year deal this off-season for a little over $1 million. And the early signs of training camp suggests Ebanks may be on the verge of having a bigger role.
The Lakers didn't keep Matt Barnes, automatically putting Ebanks behind Metta World Peace at the small forward position. But Brown said Ebanks may also play as the primary backup shooting guard spot behind Kobe Bryant.
"The thing I like about him more than anything else is his length," Brown said of the 6-9 Ebanks. "If we have him at the 2, Antawn [Jamison] at the 3 and Jordan [Hill] at the 4, we're a long and athletic team. But Devin has to go earn it because Jodie Meeks has turned some heads."
In what he considers a "nice, healthy competition," Brown still touts Meeks as having the edge over Ebanks and Chris Douglas-Roberts. But the way Brown has used Ebanks in training camp suggests otherwise. In the Lakers' 110-83 preseason loss Sunday to the Golden State Warriors, Ebanks played as the the team's first backup shooting guard, scoring six points on three-of-six shooting in just under 13 minutes. Meeks, meanwhile, didn't play until the second half and scored five points in 10 minutes, 44 seconds. More importantly, Ebanks has played with the second team during most of the practice times open to the media.
But regardless of where he plays, just getting on the court is what matters to Ebanks.
"Honestly, it doesn't make a difference to me," he said. "I could play either two or three. Either way is interchangeable. Being a 2 and 3 in our offense is pretty much the same."
Ebanks sounded more focused on what the Lakers' new offense, which features elements of the Princeton system, will do for his game.
"I like this offense way better than last year's," said Ebanks, who averaged four points on 41.6% shooting in 16.5 minutes last season. "There's a lot of movement, a lot of spacing and it gives you a lot of room to go one-on-one and take your defender. The offense is definitely good for me. I know where I'm going to get my shots. I know where I'm going to possibly get the ball if it gets kicked out to me or if I'm in a pick-and-roll situation or cutting situation."
Still, Ebanks spent a lot of time in the past two off-seasons working on the shooting guard spot. Most of that work has entailed ensuring more consistency in his shooting stroke, which the coaching staff believes led to his career-best 41.4% mark from the field. Ebanks mostly played at small forward last season because of the inconsistency at that position. World Peace entered training camp overweight. Though Barnes usually provided dependable energy and slashing abilities, he often shot too much from three-point range and committed unnecessary fouls. But Ebanks was solid at the shooting guard spot when he played for eight games while Bryant nursed a shin injury.
The Lakers value Meeks' marksmanship as a career 37% three-point shooter. That's why they signed him to a two-year, $3-million deal in hopes to improve the team's 25th-place ranking last season from behind the perimeter. But the Lakers also trust Ebanks' development.
"The one thing Devin is doing is he's trying to play within himself," Brown said. "He's playing confidently. He's trying to play defense. He's trying to rebound. We all know he can shoot. We all know he can score at 6-9. As long as he plays within himself and doesn't try to do too much, he'll play fine."
Regardless of who ascends on the pecking order, Brown suggested he'd write the names in with a pencil more than pen. He considers anyone outside of the starting lineup interchangeable. Given the Lakers' complementary pieces with Jamisons scoring, Meeks' outside shooting, Hills' energy and Ebanks' length, Brown believes he can get enough flexibility to sort out various lineups.
As he always has, Ebanks vows to keep his quiet motor running regardless of how his role plays out.
Said Ebanks: "I have to stay ready for both positions."
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