There's a limit to how much relevant information about a player's potential can truly be taken away from Summer League performances. The competition isn't consistently high level, and good performances in July don't always translate once the real season begins. In other words, grains of salt must be always be taken.
Tuesday's 90-84 loss to the Sacramento Kings, however, presented a reasonably noteworthy afternoon for second round picks Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks. Sacto's Vegas squad features particularly interesting matchups for the Laker youngsters looking to make their bones. For Caracter, it was a showdown against fifth overall pick DeMarcus Cousins (a center considered by many to be as talented as anybody in the draft). For his part, Ebanks shadowed honest-to-goodness NBA players Omri Casspi and Donte Greene at small forward.
These are as tough of assignments as either could expect this summer, and in my estimation, both acquitted themselves rather nicely.
In the more high profile showdown, Caracter surrendered a lot of size to Cousins, but refused to let that disadvantage intimidate him. During the first half, back-to-back challenges underneath forced misses from Cousins, and Caracter later blocked a jumper in space. There was also a nice sequence where Cousins poked away a pass from Caracter, but the Laker stayed with the play enough to first disrupt Cousins from getting a breakaway dunk, then strip the Sacto big underneath the basket. (Beyond the matchup itself, Caracter also displayed a wet jumper, canning a few tries around the free throw line.)
Ebanks' pairings drew less attention, but I thought he did a nice job staying with (largely) Casspi and Greene (who probably spent more time matched against a less effective Gerald Green). Ebanks' highlight moment was probably a block in space against Greene along the three-point line.
Below are some thoughts from Lakers Summer League head coach Chuck Person, Caracter and Ebanks on the outing:
Chuck Person, on whether this was a good test for Caracter: "I think so. Cousins is a legitimate center in this league or power forward. Caracter is a little undersized, but he makes up for it. He's got a good nose for the basketball. He's got good hands. He can jump and pick up his feet. I think he fared well, and I think as he continues to lose weight, get in shape and get acclimated to our system, I think possibly he could help us down the line."
Person, on whether this was a good test for Ebanks: "Absolutely. He was more ready as a wingman to play, in my opinion, because he can defend and run. He's a good rebounder, although he hasn't done that to quite the level that I expected from him in these four games we've played. But he can do some things out there. I think Casspi and Donte Greene were a good test for him and I think he came through with flying colors. He'll continue to do better. He's a hard worker. The things that we've asked for him to do, he's done.
Person, on whether this was the toughest individual matchup either player has faced in Las Vegas: "I think so. The Kings, they're well coached. They have a system in play that get their wing guys shots. They spread the floor. I thought Devin did a good job on the ball, off the ball. And so did Caracter. We're looking for those guys to come into camp well versed in the thing that we like to out of Coach [Phil] Jackson's system. I was very impressed with what they did today."
Person, on Caracter's and Ebanks' aptitude for the triangle: "I think they've done well. They've gotten the basic parts of the triangle. Obviously, it's a complicated offense, so the fact that they're making the right reads, the right footwork, and trying to do the things that we execute with our regular team. So I think Caracter is definitely going to be a player, as well as Ebanks."
Ebanks, on whether he noticed a difference in caliber between Casspi/Greene vs. previous SPL matchups: "Yeah, you can. You can tell. Definitely. Especially the way they move. The moves that they make to get to their shot. You can tell it's more crisp and more solid."
Caracter, on his performance against Cousins: "I was a little anxious. There was a lot of hype before the game, like "Oh, it's D.C. vs. D.C." I was a little anxious, rushing some things. Things, as they moved on throughout the game, I just wasn't boarding the way I wanted to. I'm still just trying to pick myself up and stay positive. Games happen like this."
Caracter, on the differences between what you were doing and what he was doing, both positively and negatively: "I think he's got long arms. He got a lot of balls I usually get a hold of. A lot of loose balls, the chased-down balls. There's no excuses for why I didn't get those balls. Usually those 50/50 balls are mine. I guess you can say he wanted them a little more today, and you never want that to be the case when you're a competitor out there everyday. But stats don't lie."
Caracter, on whether his lost weight makes it harder or easier to go against Cousins: "It's both. It's a double edged sword. I felt like I could have did a little better in terms of trying to out-muscle him, but he's also a big body. I just got caught up thinking too much trying to be in the right position for the triangle, but at the same time, all the plays they've run for him, isolated against me, I wanted to do the same thing back. But in the triangle, that's not it. Everybody gets shots. You've just got to play off what's available and understand the reads."
Caracter, on whether he could feel the difference matched up against Cousins vs. other SPL players: "Yeah. He's a top five pick. You know what I'm saying? He's a top five, you're gonna be pretty good. It'll be a long season and hopefully we'll get to play each other again. By that time, it'll be different scouting reports and stuff like that. A couple times, I tried to front and the Lakers don't play that way. So they told me not front, so it's kind of difficult. You're behind the guy, and I can't front him because his arms are longer than mine. Just staying behind him, he's pretty talented as far as scoring around the basket."
Caracter, on whether he thought he made Cousins work: "I did, but at the same time, I felt he also scored a little too easy. So that's something I have to get better at defensively and figure out better ways to stop guys that size with skills and talent like that."
Caracter, on whether this was the toughest matchup he's faced: "Yeah, I would say so. He's a good player. Like I said, he's a top five pick making millions of dollars and it's a job out here now. That's what you do. I'm still out here fighting for a contract."
Mind you, it was hardly a perfect day for either player. Caracter turned the ball over five times, while Ebanks had three to complement a five-for-13 shooting clip. Caracter also continued his run as a whistle magnet, picking up eight of the allotted ten fouls allowed in Summer League. But despite frustration over a few "ticky tack" calls, he was able to maintain a sense of humor. When I noted how he's yet to earn the respect of the summer league referees, Caracter laughed, which I thought was a good sign of a player maintaining a positive attitude. Brian and I both noticed and liked how Caracter wasn't overly impressed with himself, despite a legitimately solid showing against an extremely touted rookie. That he holds himself to a high standard is never a bad thing.
One final note: Gerald Green's game was a decided mixed bag, but he managed to provide the game's highlight moment. After a steal was corralled under the basket, he ran the wing to receive a feed from D.J. Strawberry, then took off from just outside the restricted area to throw down a spectacular two-handed dunk. Dude was way the hell up there, erupting the Thomas & Mack Center crowd.