Per the Lakers’ twitter account, Jordan Farmar’s latest ultrasound showed a completely healed hamstring. Thus, he’s been cleared to return to action and should see his first action since Dec. 1 when the Lakers take on the 2-time defending champion Miami Heat on Christmas Day.
INJURY UPDATE: @JrFarmar’s ultrasound showed that his hamstring is completely healed.
He is cleared to play.
While the Lakers would surely like to slowly integrate Farmar back into the rotation, the current lack of healthy point guards makes that impossible. With Steve Nash and Steve Blake still nursing their respective injuries, Farmar will have to carry an intense load the minute he steps back on the floor. Expect him to start tomorrow and every game until the Steves return, and to see an increase in minutes for the 27 year old who’s averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 assists on 43.8% shooting.
The Lakers are still facing a giant challenge tomorrow in the Heat, who come into tomorrow’s contest at 21-6 and winners of 5 straight. It will be a challenge to hang with the champs, who seem to have found their stride, but having at least one healthy point guard should help the Lakers run their offensive sets with a bit more fluidity.
The Lakers announced today that Jordan Farmar will miss at least 4 weeks with a torn hamstring. The reserve point guard commented after the game that he’d experienced tightness in the muscle the last few days and knew he had a problem when he pulled up lame in the 2nd quarter. Well, Farmar’s problem is now the Lakers’ as the point guard is on the shelf and the team is left scrambling for answers.
Before we explore those, however, it’s important to note that losing Farmar is quite the blow to the Lakers. As I mentioned on twitter the other night, Farmar has been one of the Lakers’ better performers recently, putting up some staggeringly good shooting numbers while being a catalyst for some of their best performing lineups. On the season, Farmar is posting a very good PER of 17.8 (good for 2nd on the team) and, after a negative blip in his production a couple of weeks ago, has probably been the team’s best and most consistent performer offensively.
Farmar has also had a very good impact on the defensive side of the ball, holding opposing PG’s to a PER of 8.2 when he’s on the floor. Not to mention, as a team the Lakers boast a defensive efficiency of 96.7 when Farmar is in the game versus a 106.6 when he’s on the bench. This net defensive rating of 9.9 is the best of any of the team’s main rotation players and speaks to the fact that when he is on the floor, the Lakers simply perform better.
Of course these stats don’t tell the entire story, but they do pretty much verify what our eyes tell us. One of the major keys to the Lakers’ success this season is that their bench consistently outperforms their opponents’ on a nightly basis. Farmar may not be the flashiest player on that unit and may not have the name recognition around the league as an important player, but he is the driver behind its success. A big night from Nick Young or a highlight drive and dunk from Xavier Henry may get the air time, but it is Farmar’s ability to score from all over the floor combined with an improved ability to set up his teammates for easy shots that sustain the offense when he’s on the floor. Add that to his improved (at least since his last stint with the Lakers) defense and it’s not a stretch to say the team just lost one of its best players.
Strictly speaking from a statistical and production standpoint, replacing Farmar is near impossible. Scanning the roster, however, makes doing so even harder. You see, besides Steve Blake and Steve Nash, Farmar is the only other true point guard on the roster. In the 2nd half against the Blazers, the Lakers went on a run using a backcourt of Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry to good success, but down the stretch both made questionable plays against a dialed in defense who forced them to initiate and execute the offense. Moving forward, those two may be able to provide spot minutes as ball handlers, but neither are an actual solution as a point guard for any extended period of time, and especially not for 4 weeks.
If there is any good news to be had at this point it is that both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are likely to test their injuries this week in practice, potentially even returning to the lineup soon if things go well. The Lakers don’t play again until this Friday and that should give both the Lakers’ graybeards a good streak of practices to really see if they’re ready to lace up their sneakers and see some game action. Historically, both Kobe and Nash thrive with the ball in their hands and both have proven more than capable of steering an offense in a positive direction. Whether or not they are still able to do so coming off their respective injuries is another question that can’t be answered right now, but, at least in Nash’s case, it’s easy to have doubts. (In terms of Kobe, I have neither doubts nor expectations. What I have is a curiosity to see what he can do. As, I think, does everyone else.)
The flip-side to the potential returns of Kobe and Nash is that the team seems to be in a position where they now desperately need production from them sooner rather than later. For me, at least, the hope was that both could be eased back into the lineup in a way where they were only asked to provide what they were capable of. Now, however, there is more of an impetus for them to perform to a standard that that they may not be capable of reaching right away. Farmar provided a buffer between hoped for production and actual production. With him out, those two potentially return to a lineup in which the need for them just went up. That’s not exactly the best formula considering all the question marks both face. And that’s if they even come back soon — which still isn’t exactly a guarantee.
In summary, what was already a difficult season with real obstacles to overcome just got harder with Farmar going down with injury. How much more this team can take of having their best players on the sideline is not clear, but it looks like we are about to find out.
*Statistical support for this post from NBA.com and 82games.com
Halfway (well, 65.8%, but who’s counting) through its annual marathon, the NBA bestows upon its rank-and-file (players, coaches, hell, fans) a much-needed four-day respite from the mental and physical grind of 82 in ~175. In 2013, nowhere is this midseason oasis more welcome than in Lakerland, where, in depressingly short order, euphoria and stratospheric expectations have devolved into the most disappointing campaign in franchise history, a nightly nut-punch mad lib on the floor outdone only by incessant upheaval behind closed doors.
On a far brighter note, the NBA convenes this weekend in Houston, to celebrate its present and future, flaunt its athletic wares and, presumably, provide tuition assistance to certain ilk of “law student.” Last night, behind 40, on an unreal-even-against-All-Star-D 18-for-22 from the field, and 10 rebounds by the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried and 20 apiece from Cavs and Spurs sophs Tristan Thompson and Kawhi Leonard (who also had 10 and 7 rebounds, respectively), Team Chuck laid the wood to Team Shaq in a still-entertaining Rising Stars Challenge. This evening, the All Star festivities shift into top gear, with the always-meh Shooting Stars, underrated (seriously, I love it) Skills Challenge and All Star Saturday mainstays, the 3-point and slam dunk contests.
Though likely for the best, given the manner in which the pas three months have unfolded, conspicuously absent from tonight’s proceedings will be the Los Angeles Lakers. Not here! Infusing your day with memories of brighter days, a look back at the Lakers on All Star Saturdays past:
1984 Slam Dunk Contest
Three decades ago, the NBA lifted a(nother) page from the ABA playbook with a revival of the slam dunk contest. Fittingly, the event (re)debuted in the Rockies, where eight years earlier, at halftime of the 1976 ABA All-Star Game, a Spurs’ greats George Gervin and Larry Kenon, Kentucky Colonel Artis Gilmore, Denver’s own David Thompson and then-New York Net Julius Erving. The Doctor returned to headline the nine-man field, which included the preeminent perimeter defender of his (and maybe all) time and author of many a Coop-a-Loop, Michael Cooper. Suffice it to say, the Lakers’ inaugural All-Star Saturday performance was less than auspicious:
Though still immortalized:
1987 3-Point Contest
Three years after the slam dunk dud of ’84, Coop was back at All-Star Saturday, this time to take part in the second annual Larry Bird Invitational, err, 3-Point Contest. Accompanying Cooper to Seattle for the festivities was fellow sharpshooter Byron Scott. In a star-studded eight-man field featuring a who’s who of the game’s great shooters – and Danny Ainge (some grudges die hard) – Scott stumbled, while Cooper more than held his own, outscoring Bird, Dale Ellis and future three-time contest champ Craig Hodges in Round 1, before exiting in the Semifinals, the third place finisher.
1988 3-Point Contest
This time flying solo, Byron Scott returned to the 3-Point Contest the following year in Chicago. Scott rather emphatically avenged the previous year’s last place finish with a first round performance that paced a similarly power-packed field. Not surprisingly, as the stakes ratcheted up, so did Larry Bird’s performance. Though light years behind Bird, Scott and Dale Ellis engaged in battle for the second spot in the final round, with Ellis advancing by the narrowest of margins.
Is it wrong that this burns me up as much as any Lakers-Celtics battle of which we were deprived?
1994 Rookie Game
In a stirring homage to Michael Cooper’s showing the inaugural NBA slam dunk contest a year earlier, in the first-ever (at the time) Rookie Game, Nick Van Exel, in 20 minutes of burn, handed out six assists but turned in a rather impressive goose egg, whiffing on all eight of his shots (have you seen the defense in these things?!?), including three 3-point attempts. Oof. Let’s move on.
1995 Rookie Game
The Lakers’ first-ever lottery pick, the unheralded Eddie Jones (selected #10 overall in the 1994 draft) had quickly established himself as not only one of the league’s best young players, he’d almost immediately etched his name in the NBA’s top tier of perimeter defenders. This NBA ready defense, along with his stellar athleticism in slashing to the bucket earned him an invite to the second annual Rookie Game, where, sharing the floor with the top two picks in the draft, Glenn Robinson and Jason Kidd (Grant Hill had been voted into the big-boy game), Eddie stole the show, racking up 25 (including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers), six swipes, and handing out four assists en route to the game’s MVP award.
(I’d planned to include a highlight video of this game, but sadly was only able to find the full telecast, chopped into 20-minute clips. You can find those here.)
1995 Slam Dunk Contest
In the first round of the 1995 Slam Dunk Contest, Antonio Harvey almost set the desert ablaze, but instead became the Andy Reid of All-Star Saturday.
Later that night, Bean returned to floor as the second Laker ever to take part in the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest. With the contest on the ropes (it would actually be shelved the following year), the league had implemented the latest of what ultimately became a comedic laundry list of gimmicks, allowing each competitor 90 seconds in Round 1 to do with as he pleased, with the best of two dunks making up his final round score. Sadly, this resulted in our being limited to a scant three dunks by Kobe in his lone appearance in the contest. As one would expect, however, Kobe made good, delivering as emphatic and technically perfect a one-hand reverse as you’ll ever see for an opening salvo. By the way, the whole “keep the warmups on” bit looks a lot cooler when it’s Kobe instead of Brent Barry.
After edging out now-assistant coach Darvin Ham (perhaps owing to a bit of judging generosity, but whatever), Kobe set the house ablaze with a thunderous between-the-legs number – remember, this is before Vince Carter and Jason Richardson made a mockery of the skill – which earned him 49 points and dunking supremacy
(Bonus points for aggressively flexing with the sub-Durant physique and openly cheering Michael Finley’s last miss)
2004 Skills Challenge
Ok, who had Open Court Legend placing second in a competition that rewards speed, quickness, agility and outside shooting?
Seriously, I remember guffawing upon discovering Fisher’s inclusion in this field (in large part, probably, because the Lakers were that year’s host, but still), and simply hoped he could out-duel Earl Boykins and avoid last place. Taking out Boykins, Stephon Marbury (when this was still an impressive thing) and making prime-Baron Davis work in final?
Really not a lot to say here. 12 points for Jordan Farmar, Andrew Bynum with 7 points and 4 boards in 18 minutes.
2007 Skills Challenge
Anyone else kinda totally forget that this happened?
With the notable exceptions of the Malice at the Palace and the 1984 Draft Lottery, I’m not sure there’s an event the NBA’s worked harder to bury in history than 2007’s All-Star Weekend in Vegas. Without going into detail, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly public relations coup for the league.
That said, it was there that one of the most stealthily cool competitions in ASW history took place. It’s over in a flash (pun possibly intended), and it’d have been awesome if Kobe hadn’t flubbed the opportunity to make a run at Wade’s final time, but simply having Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul – and no one else – in a test of basketball fundamentals is pretty awesome.
2008 Rising Stars
A year after posting a solid, if unspectacular 12 points as a rookie, Jordan Farmar returned to All Star Weekend as an NBA soph, and quietly turned in a stellar playmaking performance. In a game whose narrative was dominated by Kevin Durant (23 and 8), Rudy Gay (22 on just 12 shots), Brandon Roy (17 and 7 assists), LaMarcus Aldridge (18 and 9 rebounds) and MVP Boobie Gibson (33 on 11 threes), Farmar played a central role, feeding (among others) Gibson to the tune of 12 assists, scored 17 points on 10 shots, ripped four steals, and made the play of the game (#8 below).
It might even have been recognized as such had that lob found, say, Kevin Durant instead of Ronnie Brewer.
2010 Slam Dunk Contest
They Let Shannon Dunk. It… was.
Enjoy the festivities everyone – no Laker losses tonight!
It’s now official: Jordan Farmar is no longer a Laker but instead is a member of the New Jersey Nets. Last night he inked a 3 year/$12 million dollar contract to play point guard with the team in Jersey. So, what looked to be a sure bet after his exit interview and at the beginning of free agency has now come to fruition, so this should be of little surprise to Lakers fans. Personally, I wish Farmar nothing but the best. Yes, I’ve been hard on Farmar over his career (more on that later) but he was a key contributor to the Lakers three consecutive trips to the Finals and the two championships they’ve won in the past two seasons. Serving as the back up PG and the first guard off the bench nearly every night, Farmar may not have been the most dependable player but he played hard and did have a knack of hitting key shots when the Lakers needed them. So, in a way, I’ll miss him. I just won’t miss him a lot.
Because when it comes right down to it, Jordan Farmar wasn’t a player that had a long term future with the Lakers. While the Triangle is an offense that nearly any player can adapt to – if you can’t shoot, you can slash; if you’re not a good ball handler, you can spot up; etc – Farmar was always a reluctant participant in the Lakers’ sets often casting himself as a floor general in a system that did not require it. Farmar seems to see himself as a director of the action; as a guard that operates best with the ball in his hands where he can call out the sets and improvise off the dribble to get himself or his teammates a shot. And the offense he found himself in just wasn’t that type of scheme. Plus, when you compound that with the Lakers also employing Kobe, Pau, Fisher, and Odom, it’s not like Farmar was ever going to find a role where he was the main player with the ball in his hands even when the offense calls for isolation sets or pick and rolls.
The thing is, even though Farmar likely saw himself as more, he had the requisite skill to really excel as a support player in the Triangle. Farmar is a good enough shooter from both the mid-range and the three point line (for players that had more than 17 attempts, he actually led the Lakers in 3pt FG% at 37.6% this past season) to be a threat off the ball. He’s a very good ball handler and has shown the ability to be a good decision maker by making the proper reads within the offense. He’s an explosive driver that can finish at the rim in the half court and in transition – traits that served him well when up against the shot clock or in the P&R sets that are built into the Triangle. And he also had moxie; a confidence to him that allowed him to play fearlessly in games where the stakes were high. Granted, this didn’t always lead to the best results, but he’s played well in some big games and hit some big shots in the the OKC series and against Phoenix in the WCF in this years’ playoffs. He also made some key hustle plays in the Finals including a diving grab of a loose ball in game 6 that exemplified the effort the Lakers displayed in forcing a fateful game 7. So when looking at his game, it’s obvious that Farmar could have been a contributing player for the Lakers for years to come had he just been at peace with his role.
But during his tenure with the Lakers, he never fully embraced being that player. And in the end, this is why I’ve been so hard on Farmar and why I was left disappointed on many a night with his performance. Farmar was always a player with the requisite game and the smarts to know what to do and when to do it, but he too often broke away from that role to try and do more. Rather than making the simple pass into the post, he’d call Gasol out to the perimeter so he could run the P&R. Instead of making the next pass in the progression reads of the Triangle, he’d put his head down and try to attack the basket. What was most frustrating was that it was clear that he could play in a manner that was mutually beneficial to him an the team – a perfect example of this was his performance in the 2009 playoffs against Houston when Fisher was suspended – but on too many nights Farmar pushed away from that role like the style he wanted to play and the Triangle offense were two magnets at opposite poles. When you throw in his sometimes commitment to defense where losing track of his man off the ball or his getting beat off the dribble in a manner where his man wasn’t funneled to help defenders was a bit too frequent, my frustration often grew even higher. This all left me with a sense of “he should be better, but he’s just not” and in the end, that’s a tough way of looking at a player night after night.
And now he’s gone. But again, I hope he succeeds in Jersey (and I think he will). He’s seemingly going to a situation where he’ll again be asked to be a back up player, but the isolation and P&R schemes of Avery Johnson will likely suit him better than the constraints of the Triangle. Plus with the Nets, there is no Kobe Bryant to dominate the ball on the wing to the point that Farmar will be a spectator just standing in the corner waiting for the ball to swing back to him. He’ll be able to play with an up an coming big man, so he should still have the relief of having a strong post presence that he can play off of while still being able to create off the dribble for himself or his mates. And while I’m not sure if this is the best career move for Farmar – he’s leaving a defending champion for the team with the worst record in the league last season – I do think this will give him a chance to see if he can indeed flourish in a more traditional system for a point guard. He has the talent, but whether he gets the opportunity he’s been seeking for years remains to be seen. Either way, good luck Jordy. I’ll miss his buzzer beaters at the end of quarters, open court dunks and that swagger that he carried himself with and hope he brings all that and more with him to the Nets.
Shannon Brown is the crowd favorite. His dunks ignite the Lakers faithful like only Kobe with the game on the line can do — heck, they have their own Web site and twitter following. But more than that, he has shown potential on defense, potential under pressure situations. Shannon Brown, a relatively quiet person by nature, is getting a big outpouring of love in Los Angeles.
But, based on the last few weeks, Jordan Farmar has been the one winning the backup point guard job. The guy half the Lakers fan base wants to trade away has been staking his case to be kept after the season, or at least as too valuable to give up if the Lakers want to win a title again this year.
In the past 10 Lakers games Jordan Farmar is shooting 60.5% (eFG%) to Shannon Brown’s 43.4%, and his numbers are better from three (a key role for the PG in the triangle). Farmar is also leading slightly in assists and steals.
But the stats tell only a portion of the story (as always): Right now Jordan Farmar is running the offense better than he ever has, he is making smarter decisions on when to attack the paint, and the team is generally playing better with him in the game as the backup PG. Darius noted that after the Utah game a week ago:
He’s moving the ball well. He’s attacking the paint and not settling for too many jumpers. He’s creating for himself and his teammates all while playing to his strengths. And, most importantly, he’s playing better defense. Deron Williams has always been a real problem for Jordan. And based off that history, you saw Phil go to WOW as the PG to match up with Deron in the middle part of the game. But, in the 4th quarter when we went on that run, Phil went to Jordan and he delivered. Soon enough, it was Farmar pestering Williams – using his speed and athleticism to cut off driving angles and challenge shots. Jordan played inspired ball last night and he deserves a load of credit for his contributions to this win.
Does this mean Farmar has turned a corner with the offense and the Lakers? We’re a ways from me totally buying in to that, Farmar himself has talked about the Lakers triangle offense is “not in his wheelhouse.” He still over-dribbles at times and breaks out of the offensive sets more than I’d like. He was one of the guys who was not spectacular against the Pistons, going 1-6 from the floor, but he was a +4 on the night. But Brown seemed to struggle with his whole game, 1-9 from the floor and just looking out of synch, especially in the fourth quarter, and he finished -13. One game is a small sample size, but that seems to be a trend.
The fact is, Derek Fisher remains the Lakers starter because nobody has stepped up and taken the job away from the old man. Farmar has not, but Brown is farther behind (and getting more time at the two now because he flows better in that role). It’s also something to consider for those people looking to ship Farmar out at the trading deadline as part of a package deal – nobody on this team is showing they can replace him right now.
And he seems to be getting better as the season goes on.