Ebanks appeared in 20 games to average 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds before hurting his foot in February; Caracter saw some early-season minutes with Andrew Bynum recovering from injury, averaging 5.2 minutes per game towards 2.0 points and 1.0 rebounds; Johnson joined the team prior to the final regular season game, playing 13 minutes to score six points against Sacramento.
Below is a summary of their exit interviews:
On the stress fracture of his left tibia: I actually have a couple more weeks left to keep rehabbing and resting it, and we’ll get another MRI and see where we’ll take it from there. Hopefully then I can start summer work outs and get ready.” Ebanks suffered a set back in his initial rehab, as he was originally supposed to be out about three weeks from March 4.
- Among the things GM Mitch Kupchak would like Ebanks to improve upon is his shooting, as if he were able to improve significantly from the perimeter, he’d have a better chance of playing at the 2 or 3 in the NBA. They’d also like him to get stronger, and particularly like his athletic ability.
- On what he learned from Phil Jackson: “Just mind preparation, the things you have to know on and off the court. It’s crazy. It’s much more in depth than college was. He just taught me about the game and how to play it.”
- Among several interesting stories on this Lakers team was that Ebanks happened to grow up just a few blocks away from both Ron Artest and Lamar Odom in Queens. “It was a good experience especially my first year looking up to those guys. They definitely looked out for me the whole year, and (hopefully) for years to come.”
- Ebanks pointed out how beneficial it was for him to speak with Kobe Bryant, especially early in the season, about offense and where he likes to score within the offense. On defense, he spent the most time talking to Ron Artest, whom Ebanks said looked out the most for him and Caracter during games.
Ebanks on being fellow rookies with Derrick Caracter on a veteran team: “It was great. Just being great teammates for our vets out there. We’re about to be sophomores next year, and ready to play.”
- What he got out of his meeting: “Basically that I just need to work, stay in shape, be ready. Just some fine tuning, being confident out there, being myself, playing my game. With the amount of weight that I lost, playing with this new body.” Caracter dropped between 30 and 40 pounds from college, getting down to about 280 pounds, and wants to continue to eat healthy, boost up his cardio, and perhaps start some boxing and ballet to work on his flexibility. He said he wished he could have made a bigger impact.
- What he took out of his rookie season: “Just knowing what it takes to come in day in and day out and work hard, be able to perform at the same time … There’s a lot of things I felt I could have done a lot better. Just being prepared earlier in the season when I had those early opportunities, but that’s just something I have to get better at, locking in mentally and being able to perform like I know I can.” Among the things he’d like to do better: finish strong at the rim.
- On learning from Phil Jackson: “Just what it takes to be a champion, really. Everything he does, gets the team ready, is just one of a kind. I’ve never seen it, and the way he does it is amazing. A lot of things that we may think or want to say, sometimes he just says it. It benefits most of the guys on the team, and allows a player to develop.”
- Finally, Caracter said he expects to have to earn his way back onto the team by showing he’s improved his body and his game; he beat Ebanks more often in 1-on-1 contests; and he cited Derek Fisher’s in-game leadership and Lamar Odom’s key role in keeping the players loose.
- Reflecting on the sudden end to the season: The experience for me personally was definitely a blessing and well worth it, but of course you would have liked to end on a higher note. To start here in the preseason and come back, it was bittersweet the way it ended.
- Johnson said Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson said they were appreciative of what he brought to the team this year when called upon late, but was given no indication of whether he’ll have a chance to make the team for next season. Nonetheless, he felt that for the two-time defending champs to say “We can use him” legitimized Johnson to other teams. He’s looking for a commitment to be a full member of a team, as has been his dream and goal.
- On what he learned basketball wise: “Oh a lot. The preparation level is tremendous, especially dealing with Phil. I really, really enjoyed the way he prepares, not just himself but the entire staff and the players for a game. That’s something I’ll probably take with me for the rest of my playing career, and my coaching career. I’d love to get into coaching after basketball, and I like the approach to the game.” Johnson would love to play for another 10 years if he can, before getting into coaching.
- Perhaps the biggest thing Johnson wants to work on is to become a more consistent three-point shooter.
- The highlight of Johnson’s time with the Lakers was having his family drive over to both New Orleans and Dallas from their home in Jackson, MS, in the playoffs to see him in person. “My family got a chance to share this with me, and I think that was great for them. It really brought us together in a sense, of being able to enjoy something that I’ve always dreamed of, so I think that’s probably what I remember the most.”