Lakers Coach Mike Brown has definitely decided to bring Metta World Peace off the bench this season, empowering his best defensive perimeter player towards a leadership role from the pine.
“It’s going to be good,” said Metta. “I get a chance to come in with extra responsibility … it’s going to put the other team off balance.”
That leaves an open spot in the starting line up, which we’d at first think would go to Matt Barnes, who was very effective for L.A. last season before hurting his knee in January. But Brown said after Sunday’s practice second-year wing Devin Ebanks has impressed enough in camp to warrant a look himself.
“There’s a good chance I’m going to start Matt (Monday) and Devin (Wednesday),” said Brown. “Or I may start Matt (Monday) and Ebanks at halftime, and then flip it the next day. I’m not sure, I’m going to give both those guys a look.
“They’ve been playing very well for us, and they both deserve to play. They’re going to get an opportunity to continue getting looks.”
Both played well at the team’s open scrimmage on Friday at USC’s Galen Center, with Barnes scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 FG’s (two 3-pointers) with three boards and Ebanks putting in 12 points (four FT’s) without a board.
“It’s open right now,” said Barnes after the scrimmage of the starting slot. “(Coach Brown) wants to bring Ron (Metta) off the bench. I’m going to continue to play hard and hopefully get that spot.”
An early indication in Barnes’ favor is that he’s essentially fully recovered from the knee injury, moving strong and free doing the things that make him fit: rebound, defend one-on-one, run the floor, move the ball and knock down open shots.
“My knee feels good,” he said. “I’m running well. I think the last thing to come back is my explosiveness and it’s coming back. My shot feels good, my lateral movement feels good.”
Ebanks has two extra inches on the 6-7 Barnes and has been showcasing his athleticism in transition, but regardless of who starts, Barnes likes how hard the team has been playing in camp.
“Everyone is locked in,” he explained. “We didn’t really need too much motivation to get back and want to play strong this year after the way we were embarrassed last year. We’re very motivated, very focused.”