Monthly Archive for December, 2011

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Lakers 91, Kings 100: Dec. 26 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening road contest at Sacramento, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a tough last-minute loss on Christmas to Chicago, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ebanks, McRoberts and Gasol
Kings: T. Evans, M. Thornton, J. Salmons, C. Hayes, D. Cousins

7:00 Something we haven’t seen a ton of in the past few years is wings flying up the floor to finish in transition, but Devin Ebanks showed that he’s more than capable with a pretty hit off a Kings’ miss, putting L.A. up 7-6 early. Other early notables: Gasol was wearing a protective sleeve after suffering a mild sprain of his right shoulder on Sunday, but said he was fine, while McRoberts sprained his left thumb, but also started and is fine.

0:00 A sluggish first quarter produced only eight field goals and three free throws for the Lakers, who found themselves down 21-20. Bryant was slightly off on his J, hitting just 2-of-8, while McRoberts was effective all around with four boards and three dimes. Troy Murphy also offered a quick bench boost with five points, including a three courtesy of a Gasol post up.

8:04 Fulfilling the precise role Mike Brown hoped to have carved out for him, Metta World Peace connected on four field goals at the rim to reach 10 total points, using his strength either posting up or collecting offensive boards. L.A.’s D was less effective, however, as rookie Jimmer Fredette got to the rim twice for layups and rookie Isaiah Thomas nailed a corner three to put the Kings up 32-28.

2:22 Fisher stayed down for an extra few seconds after taking an Evans’ knee to the head trying to draw a charge, but was feeling well enough to draw a charge on Thornton on the perimeter moments later. L.A. was just 16-of-42 from the field (38.1%), and allowing 51.4% FG’s to the Kings, so being down 45-40 wasn’t so much a shocker.

0:00 It got a bit worse for the Lakers into halftime, as Bryant (4-for-13) couldn’t connect and Sacramento tacked four more points on to take a 49-40 lead into the break. L.A.’s trouble on D would surely be the focus, with the Kings shooting a healthy 52.6%, including four triples.

7:33 With Bynum at the team hotel, L.A. certainly needed Gasol’s best game, but he’d struggled throughout the first half and early third. As such, Mike Brown was pleased to see Gasol tip in Bryant’s miss at the rim, then collect Fisher’s long miss and put it back in to cut Sacramento’s growing lead.

5:42 Fisher got an open three off Kobe’s dish that could have cut the lead to two, but as often happens, instead the Kings got a triple at the other end from Salmons to push the lead back to eight. L.A. was taking better care of the ball to that point with only seven turnovers, but was shooting only 38%.

0:00 The home team’s lead would swell to 14 to close the quarter, as L.A. struggled to execute on either end (Kobe will definitely use the word “execute” in his postgame interview). It’d be a long, uphill climb for the purple and gold.

6:00 The general rule for an NBA team to steal a game it trailed is to be within 10 with six minutes left in a period, and here, Bryant’s forceful layup (he basically bullied his way to the rim) made it an 89-81 Kings lead. Kobe was up to 29 points, and with a jumper out of a time out, Metta World Peace ranked behind him with 15 off the bench, cutting the lead to six.

3:07 Make it two. Free throws from MWP capped a 12-2 run, L.A. suddenly finding itself within two, but Sacramento countered with a Thornton three (Marcus had 25 points to lead Sacramento, and it was him who dropped 32 on L.A. the last time they were in the building) to push their lead back to five.

1:00 So much went wrong in the final minutes for L.A. that it almost seemed like Christmas all over again, L.A. failing to clear rebounds on missed free throws, getting called for fouls while trying not to foul and struggling to get to the rim on offense. Thus, the Kings pushed their lead back to 10 points with a minute left, which … well … isn’t the same as a 10-point lead with six minutes left.

Two straight losses for L.A. to start the season, two more games to go without Andrew Bynum, and another young team playing its first game of the season (Utah) coming up in the team’s only back-to-back-to-back of the 66-game season. We’ll see you then.

Lakers Draw Kings in Sacramento

Thanks to Kobe Bryant’s game-tying three-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in regulation of last regular season’s final game (a 116-108 OT victory), the Lakers won last season’s series with Sacramento 3-1 a year after sweeping the 2009-10 season series.

At the time, it wasn’t known if that would be the last game at Power Balance Pavilion, questions abounding about a potential move to Orange County, but the Kings are back in the state’s capital with a young, athletic line up that poses a tough matchup for L.A.

Sacramento split its two preseason games with Golden State, getting most of its scoring on the perimeter with Marcus Thornton (21.0 ppg), rookie Jimmer Fredette (16.5) and Tyreke Evans (16.0), all expected to get significant minutes against Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and whoever Mike Brown plays behind Bryant (it was Andrew Goudelock on Sunday against Chicago; Jason Kapono is also available).

Up front, the Kings boast an enigmatic talent in DeMarcus Cousins, who’s skilled enough to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and a handful of assists, but also turns the ball over at a high rate (he had nine in his only preseason game) and has poor shot selection (43.2 FG% is extremely low for a big man). JJ Hickson, acquired from Cleveland for Omri Casspi, was solid after the All-Star break by averaging 16.8 points and 10.8 boards, but he struggled defensively with centers and is more of a natural power forward, where Cousins plays. Whether or not Hickson defends Pau Gasol or Josh McRoberts could make a major difference.

The Kings also use Jason Thompson, signed-through-the-amnesty-clause Travis Outlaw, Donte Greene and Tyler Honeycutt in the front court and rookie Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons in the backcourt.

Last season, the Lakers had remarkable success in home/road back-to-backs, going 7-1 on both ends for a 14-2 mark. With the narrow opening day loss to Chicago in the first B2B of 2011-12, L.A. will look to protect the back end of that mark against Sacramento.

Some additional notes on the matchup:
- The two franchises have met 277 times overall and 113 times since the Kings moved to Sacramento. The Lakers lead the all-time series 190-87 (82- 31 vs. Sacramento).
- The Lakers have won nine of their last 10 meetings with Sacramento, and are 9-1 in their last 10 games at Power Balance Pavilion.
- Kobe Bryant posted his 17th career triple-double early last season (11/3/10) while passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the franchise leader for career minutes in a 112-100 Lakers road victory. Bryant has a
career average of 26.7 points vs. the Kings with a high game of 51 points 1/19/06 at Sacramento.
- Kings forward J.J. Hickson played his first two seasons (2008-10) for L.A. Coach Mike Brown in Cleveland.

Lakers 87, Bulls 88: X-Mas Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s X-Mas Day contest against Chicago, the Lakers opening the Mike Brown era in search of win No. 1, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ebanks, McRoberts and Gasol
Bulls: D. Rose, R. Hamilton, L. Deng, C. Boozer, J. Noah

9:02 In a slow-paced start, L.A. managed an 8-6 edge after two Kobe free throws and a Gasol tip-in of Fisher’s transition miss. Rip Hamilton, the lone new Bull, took just three minutes picking up his second personal trying to defend Kobe, bringing in Ronnie Brewer (better on D, worse on O).

4:31 A very strong start for the Lakers produced a 18-10 lead despite two FT misses from Gasol, who led with eight points. Mike Brown could be pleased with his team defense, which rotated very well to eliminate any open perimeter looks, and kept Rose out of the paint.

0:00 From that point on, it was all Chicago, anchored by their terrific bench from a defensive standpoint. Omer Asik and Taj Gibson anchored the league’s best reserve D last season, and return intact with C.J. Watson and Brewer, keeping L.A. from getting anything easy. L.A.’s starting unit was very strong, however, holding last year’s MVP, Rose, without a bucket and a single assist.

10:20 Seeing his first NBA action in somewhat of a surprise, second round pick Andrew Goudelock rose to drain a triple. Steve Blake — already looking exceedingly more comfortable than he did last season — sandwiched that effort with his own three and 2-of-3 FT’s to put L.A. up 28-25. Strong lift from the back court bench duo.

5:41 L.A. continued to get contributions from uncommon sources, as Troy Murphy added a put-back bucket and 1-of-2 FT’s, but eight turnovers led to 10 Bulls points, enabling the visitors a 36-33 lead halfway through the second. Turnovers were a problem in the preseason as well, which Coach Mike Brown attributed in part to new players in a new system.

2:00 Thought you might want to know that Maroon 5′s Adam Levine got loose on the Kiss Cam w/girlfriend Anne V (a Google search renders her a Victoria’s Secret model). Meanwhile, L.A.’s starters picked up the strong play they opened with, getting buckets from Ebanks and McRoberts (alley-oop), but after cutting Chicago’s lead to one conceded the last six points on a Deng corner 3 and and-1 layup in transition with 1.4 seconds left, putting the Bulls up 56-49. Rough end to an otherwise solid half.

7:54 After two scoreless minutes, Bryant opened the second half scoring with a breakaway two-handed dunk, and followed with two free throws. Gasol pitched in with a beautiful baseline spin move around Noah he finished with a dunk, bringing L.A. within two at 59-57. Related: after Gasol’s bucket, we saw the first mutual-admiration high five from Kobe and Pau, which Bryant saves for when he really likes what the Spaniard has to offer.

4:16 A terrific third quarter continued for L.A. as Gasol got a difficult jumper to fall over Asik’s outstretched hand, putting L.A. up 67-63, capping an 18-7 run. Rose did answer with his fourth triple, bringing Chicago back within a point, finding a way to hurt L.A. despite being unable to get into the paint.

0:26.2 A great slip move from McRoberts and Blake’s recognition got McRoberts a wide open two-handed dunk, putting L.A. up 69-68, a lead they’d hold going into the fourth after McRoberts stripped Asik on the other end. Really impressive contribution from Mac, as he likes to be called, in his first game as a Laker.

10:20 The first five points of the quarter came not from Kobe and Pau, but Goudelock and Murphy. Who’d have thunk it? The rookie with no conscious hit his second three, while Murphy bailed out a poor possession with a long two that made it 74-68. Staples Center loved it even more when Blake’s jumper capped an 8-0 run to put L.A. suddenly up eight.

6:00 They’d still be up eight minute later, as Noah’s fifth personal put him back on the bench, L.A. using a crunch time unit of Blake-Bryant-Artest-McRoberts-Gasol. The defense had been terrific, Chicago making only 6-of-33 FG’s in the second half (18.2 percent), making Mike Brown proud. Chicago would miss its next seven shots, falling down to 14 percent.

2:33 Chicago finally got some offensive life off a Bryant turnover (Deng breakaway dunk) and Gasol missed jumper (Brewer pull-up jumper), cutting L.A.’s 11-point lead down to five at 82-77. Then, however, came a big-time three from Blake late in the shot clock to push the lead back to eight. Yet moments later, Gasol and McRoberts went a combined 0-for-4 at the foul line to keep Chicago in striking distance. The game anything but over…

0:54.6 An absolutely exquisite fadeaway off the baseline from, you guessed it, Kobe (who so smartly knew how to get to his spot despite a double team coming) sank through, putting L.A. up six, though Deng countered with an and-1 off a Brewer 3-point miss. The lead then fell to just one after Kobe’s miss, and two FT’s from Deng when Bryant fouled him after a long rebound (Chicago was in the bonus).

0:04.8 A terrific game turned very sour on L.A. in the final minute, a six-point lead blown when Bryant’s pass to Gasol was intercepted near midcourt, L.A. only having to catch and shoot free throws. Instead, Rose collected the ball and drove in the paint to get a floater to fall with 4.8 seconds left. On the other end, Bryant had his shot blocked at the buzzer, Chicago pulling off a 7-0 run in the final minute to pull a win out of Staples Center. Tough pill to swallow for the Lakers, who’d done so many things right to put themselves in position to win. They’d have little time to think about it, with a 9 p.m. flight to Sacramento.

Opening Day Line Up

With Andrew Bynum serving a 4-game suspension and Metta World Peace moving to the bench to help spark the offense in Lamar Odom’s absence, here’s a look at Coach Mike Brown’s opening day line up:

PG: Derek Fisher
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Devin Ebanks
PF: Josh McRoberts
C: Pau Gasol

Bryant will play through a torn ligament in his wrist, while the rest of the starting Lakers are healthy. World Peace will be among the first players off the pine, joined by Steve Blake, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy, while we should also see some time for Matt Barnes.

Chicago will counter with Derrick Rose, new Bull Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Look for Gasol to at times guard Boozer, letting McRoberts handle the lesser offensive threat in Noah.

Ebanks & McRoberts to Start

Lakers 103, Clippers 108: Preseason Diary 2

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening preseason contest as the Lakers looked to see what they could do without Kobe Bryant, missing the game due to a torn wrist ligament. Check out our @LakersReporter Twitter account for more detail in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Kapono, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Clippers: Paul, Billups, Butler, Griffin and Jordan

10:25 Among the differences between Gasol & Griffin at the power forward spot is outside shooting, as we saw to start the game when Griffin missed, and Gasol swished. Meanwhile: Ebanks, getting a chance to start as Mike Brown decides whom his opening night starter will be at SF (Matt Barnes being the other option), opened with a great defensive play to get Bynum a put-back dunk, then hit his first jumper to make it 6-3 Lakers.

6:09 Led by the league’s most skilled big man in Gasol, L.A. looked quite good offensively, scoring 21 points in the first six minutes on 10-of-12 shooting. After the Spaniard’s third jumper, Ebanks was at it again, hitting his fourth field goal to make it a 21-15 Lakers edge.

0:00 A very offensive first quarter ended with the Lakers holding a 36-33 lead, spurred late by the second and third three pointers by Steve Blake. Blake, a strong shooter throughout his career, struggled to settle in last season but has looked like a new man in training camp, proven by his 4-for-4 from three through four quarters of preseason action. Good sign for L.A. there, surely.

10:00 The biggest story of the day was off the court … Kobe Bryant’s wrist. Mike Brown said he’s a true “day-to-day,” as he may practice tomorrow, he may not. He may start on X-Mas, he may not. Of course, nobody’s going to bet against No. 24.

4:25 The impressive offensive showing continued for the Lakers, forcing themselves to move the ball around more in Bryant’s absence, as Bynum’s tip in of a World Peace miss and subsequent alley-oop hammer dunk off Fisher’s pass made it 52-43, capping a 10-1 run. But he wasn’t done. First a swat of Jordan on D and his 7th board, then another drop-in layup, which had the Lakers fans in the building on their feet. Bynum was 8-for-9 for a game-high 17 points, already.

0:00 A 10-2 Clips run to close the half turned around what had otherwise been a terrific quarter for the purple and gold. Like on Monday, it was Billups and Paul leading the charge for the Clips, cutting LAL’s lead to 56-53. Bynum/Gasol combined for 29 points and nine boards, giving the home team all kinds of trouble in the paint.

8:15 While the Clippers had started to exert themselves, taking their first lead when Jordan threw down CP3′s alley-oop, Bynum was still going off on the other end, spinning baseline for a hammer dunk that got him to a game-high 21 points with his eight boards. Clearly the star of the game to that point.

5:30 And then, like on Monday, things went downhill fast for the Lakers from that point, as multiple turnovers resulted in fastbreak points for the Clippers (including an emphatic alley-oop from Paul to Griffin). Meanwhile, Matt Barnes earned a flagrant foul for an extra push of last year’s Slam Dunk Champ, though Barnes’s teammates weren’t too upset about it since Griffin had been talking trash throughout the two games.

1:00 Back-to-back triples from Blake (4-for-5, the only miss a full-court heave at the half) and second round pick Andrew Goudelock (his second) cut the Clips lead to six … however, Mo Williams scored the final four points of the quarter, the first on two free throws that L.A.’s bench fiercely protested (bump on the perimeter) and then a pull-up J near the buzzer. As such, LAL trailed 83-73 into the fourth.

9:25 With turnover numbers like 20-6 going in the Clippers favor, it’s a wonder that L.A. was somehow within seven points at 86-79 after the third triple from Goudelock. Credit 55 percent overall shooting for keeping L.A. close, led by Bynum and Gasol’s 16-for-21.

5:32 Troy Murphy, who reportedly didn’t miss during his work out for the Lakers prior to his signing, drained his first three of the game for the second straight contest, this time bringing L.A. within three. Ryan Gomes, however, countered with a three of his own to get the lead back to six. In the next time out, assistant John Kuester drew up a play to get Murphy another open look, but Blake ended up getting fouled off the ball. Brown allows his assistants a lot of autonomy, which seems to encourage maximum energy/effort from the staff.

0:00 All of a sudden, a Metta World Peace three (his second in the final minutes after he started the preseason 2-for-17) and 1-of-2 Bynum free throws got L.A. within three. They had a chance to tie moments later after a defensive stop, but Griffin flopped (at least if you ask Barnes) to draw a critical offensive foul. With 15.2 seconds left, the Lakers then had to foul excellent FT shooter Randy Foye, who made both.

Annnnd your final: Clippers 109, Lakers 103. It was an impressive all-around effort from the Lakers to be in the ball game late despite a 22-6 turnover margin, having Kobe Bryant in street clothes and Gasol and Fisher resting in the final minutes. Some numbers for you on the way out the door:

73 Andrew Bynum’s field goal percentage on 11-of-15 field goals, most of which came at or around the rim. He was just too big for the Clips to handle, and the young center featured a bevy of low post moves to get himself better access to the rim. He led L.A. with 26 points, adding a game-high 11 rebounds and two blocks.

20 Points off the bench for Steve Blake in 28 minutes on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-7 from three-point range. Blake said in camp that he was excited to play in a single-guard front (as opposed to the triangle), and that certainly seemed the case on Wednesday. He added three assists.

16 Turnover differential in the ball game, as the Lakers coughed it up 22 times to just six from the Clippers, featuring point guards Chris Paul (10 assists, no turnovers), Mo Williams (two dimes, no turnovers) and Chauncey Billups (four assists, two turnovers). This turned out to be the primary difference in the ballgame.

13 Point differential in the third quarter, due in large part to a 10-1 turnover disadvantage for the Lakers, enough to make L.A.’s winning the fourth quarter 30-25 irrelevant.

3 Three-pointers made by Andrew Goudelock, L.A.’s second round pick out of College of Charleston. Brought in for his shooting, Goudelock didn’t disappoint, and he added two of his three assists in the fourth quarter.

Kobe Out vs. Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who suffered a right wrist injury in Monday night’s game against the Clippers, was examined today by Dr. Steven Shin of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and underwent an MRI exam. Results show that Bryant has a torn lunotriquetral ligament.

Bryant will not play in tonight’s game against the Clippers and his status is day-to-day.

UPDATE: We can expect Derek Fisher to start at the point on Wednesday after not playing in Monday’s preseason opener, and with Bryant out, Devin Ebanks could start at the two. This would keep Matt Barnes in place as the starting small forward, with Metta World Peace coming off the bench. Coach Mike Brown had previously mentioned that Ebanks could get a start at the three, as he’s still figuring out who will be awarded that spot on Christmas Day.

The Lakers have not ruled out having Kobe play in the Christmas Day opener against Chicago. That will depend on whether he can practice in next few days and how his wrist feels. – Mike Trudell

Ebanks Foot MRI = Negative

Second year forward Devin Ebanks missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right foot, and had a precautionary MRI later that afternoon, the results of which were negative.

As such, Ebanks is officially listed as day-to-day.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he had planned on starting Ebanks against the Clippers in Wednesday’s “road” game, but will have to see how he feels prior to the game.

Last season, Ebanks missed all of March and April with a stress fracture in his left tibia, and did not appear in the playoffs.

Lakers 95, Clippers 114: Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening preseason contest against the Clippers, the first live basketball we’ve seen at STAPLES Center since May, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Blake, Bryant, Barnes, Gasol & Bynum
Clippers: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin & DeAndre Jordan

6:32 A pull-up jumper from Bryant put L.A. up 18-14 early in the first, with the Lakers hitting an efficient 7-of-12 (58.3%) to start off the preseason. Kobe had exactly half of those 18 points, moving just as well as advertised on his feeling strong legs.

5:00 An early injury note: Steve Blake, starting in Derek Fisher’s (resting) absence, looked to tweak his left ankle/knee as Chris Paul ran directly into Blake, who’d planted the leg. He played through it for a few minutes, but eventually went to the bench to see trainer Gary Vitti.

3:00 Well, newly-signed backup big Josh McRoberts couldn’t have started much better in Los Angeles. First came a defensive board, then a hammer dunk off Kobe’s alley-oop, then a pretty extra pass that got Gasol a dunk, and put the Lakers up 24-22. The quarter would end in a 28-all tie, courtesy of the third shot-clock-beating-but-maybe-not-advisable Darius Morris jumpers.

9:30 And it’s already time for our second McRoberts comment, as he took exactly six minutes to start winning over the savvy LAL crowd. Extra work on the glass got Jason Kapono an open three (swish, from the guy who holds 6th place on the NBA’s all-time 3-point % list) and another extra possession off a heady steal.

3:45 The Clips built their biggest lead at 48-41 thanks to a 7-0 run capped by an off-glass alley-oop from Billups to previously-quiet Blake Griffin (who started 1-for-5 with Gasol’s length bugging him). We certainly saw some defensive breakdowns from L.A., still learning Mike Brown’s system. In other news, an FYI: there’s a new tweak to the shot clock this year, which includes tenths of a second once clock hits 10.

0:00 Some off-ball fouls once the Clips were in the bonus hurt LAL late, allowing the “road” team to build a 55-50 lead going into halftime. One first half takeaway for L.A.: Kobe’s 10 trips to the

8:30 The second triple of the quarter from Billups, with one more than Kobe’s 18 points, put the Clips up 68-60. It came moments after Gasol’s 4th PF, drawn on a flop by Griffin, after the Spaniard had hit a triple (as hinted to in camp) and threw down an alley-oop from Blake.

6:39 Nothing quiets STAPLES like a potential Kobe injury, as we heard a collective gasp when No. 24 landed real hard for the second time. He got up a bit more slowly than the first, holding his right wrist, used to brace the fall. Yet he seemed OK while knocking down an and-1 jumper on the next trip down. That was L.A.’s only bucket during a 12-2 run, however, allowing the Clips a 75-62 lead.

2:31 With World Peace and four new Lakers (Morris, Kapono, McRoberts and Murphy) on the floor, Paul and Billups had their way dissecting a disorganized defense. Billups, claimed off waivers after being amnestied by the Knicks, and Paul sure looked primed to show what they had to offer, combining for 40 points, including 5-of-8 triples, helping build a 20-point lead.

9:43 Signs that we’re in the preseason: L.A.’s shots were being created by Darius Morris, Kapono and Metta World Peace, while something called Marcus Hubbard was scoring for the Clips to make it 96-69. In the regular season, the only Lakers creating shots on the perimeter will be Bryant, Fisher and Blake, all of whom know what the coaches want executed.

6:00 Looking to get something positive going with regulars, Brown put Blake, Kobe and Gasol back in next to Ebanks (in for Metta World Peace, who was 0-for-8) and McRoberts, and got a nice cutting reverse layup and a corner three from Ebanks after two defensive stops.

2:45 Bryant’s 14th and 15th FT attempts of the game went down to get him to 22 points on the evening. Many questioned on Twitter why Kobe was still in the game, so, an answer: coaches can’t just pull guys to avoid injuries when a regular season game is less than a week away. Kobe only played 29 minutes, fewer than he’ll almost ever play once the games count. The game ended after two more Clippers threes gave ‘em 13 for the game, producing a 114-95 final score. Things really turned in that third quarter, when Paul and Billups made their statement and outscored L.A. 36-17, nailing 6-of-7 threes to take control.

The same two teams will be back here on Wednesday for a Clippers home game.

Brown Undecided on Starting SF

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.”