Small forward Devin Ebanks re-signed with the Lakers for a one-year deal worth the team’s $1.4-million qualifying offer given 11 days ago, The Times has learned.
The move hardly elicits the fireworks the Lakers created last week when they acquired elite point guard Steve Nash. But it brings further clarity on how the Lakers will shore up their bench.
Ebanks, who will turn 23 in late October, has impressed the Lakers the past two seasons with his unassuming work ethic, length and athleticism. For the Lakers, this move keeps some needed youth on an otherwise veteran-laden team. For Ebanks, it gives him another season to convince the Lakers that he should be in their long-term future.
Most signings can’t become official until the free-agent moratorium ends on Wednesday. But Ebanks’ case is different since it involves a qualifying offer.
“This makes the most sense for him,” Ebanks’ agent, David Bauman, told The Times in a phone interview. “This isn’t a financial decision as [much as] a career decision.”
Bauman ideally hoped to sign Ebanks to a multiyear deal for either two or three years. He also said a “handful” of other teams expressed interest in Ebanks, but never provided an offer sheet. The Lakers will also own his “Bird rights,” which gives them more leeway than other teams in a few areas, including length of contract and annual raises.
“It’s fine. The Lakers are a tax–heavy team and we’re taking this year by year,” Bauman said. “Devin knows he has a big year ahead of him. I’m happy they have faith in him by giving him a qualifying offer. He’s going to go show he can help the team and get some minutes this season.”
It’s possible those minutes might increase next season.
The Lakers aren’t expected to re-sign veteran forward Matt Barnes. It’s possible the Lakers could exercise the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, whom Bauman also represents. But he said conversations with General Manager Mitch Kupchak earlier this season lead him to believe that’s unlikely. Still, World Peace’s $15-million contract will expire after the 2013-14 season.
The uncertainty regarding playing time played a huge part in Ebanks at least showing openness in exploring other options.
He started four games to open the season but slid down the depth chart behind World Peace and Matt Barnes. From Jan. 3 to April 6, Ebanks played a combined five minutes through 34 games. He even appeared in three games for the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ Development League affiliate. Still, Ebanks averaged four points on 41.6% shooting and 2.3 rebounds in 16.5 minutes in the regular season and showed some growth in unexpected promotions.
Ebanks started at shooting guard for seven games in April while Kobe Bryant sat out with a left shin injury, averaging 6.14 points on 48.71% shooting in 25.2 minutes a game. On April 22 against Oklahoma City, Ebanks suddenly entered the game after World Peace was ejected for elbowing James Harden and Barnes sprained his right ankle. Ebanks made two steals in the final minute of the second overtime while holding Kevin Durant to five-of-19 shooting. Ebanks also started at small forward during World Peace’s seven-game suspension, scoring in double digits in three of those contests.
“They won’t make promises on that kind of stuff,” Bauman said about playing time. “But we wouldn’t be signing the qualifying offer if we didn’t feel Devin didn’t have a home here and able to carve out minutes and a role on a team. It’s not a money thing. The money would be relatively equal anywhere.”