But while the team’s biggest stars are going to be at the forefront of L.A.’s 2013-14 campaign, there is another, more unheralded player whose role will be just as indispensable: Jordan Farmar.
A six-year veteran, Farmar spent the first four years of his career in purple and gold before heading to the New Jersey Nets and then overseas for the 2012-13 season.
The 26-year-old, who took a significant paycheck hit in order to return to the Lakers over the summer, will become the team’s best option at point guard as the regular season unfolds.
Nash’s health is a problem
Nash is the oldest player in the NBA—he's nearly 40 years—and at this stage of his career is more suited for an off-the-bench role instead of a starting spot. There is no doubt that he can still play for Los Angeles, but what he’ll be able to contribute will be compromised by constant injuries if his minute total is too high.
After Nash stated that he’d be open to a reduced role (specifically sitting out back-to-back games, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA), Gasol and Bryant have also voiced concerns about the 17-year veteran’s health during the preseason, as per the Los Angeles Times.
Even more indicative of the necessity for a lesser role, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti told the Los Angeles Daily News that Nash “might be a guy that would be better off reducing his minutes.”
Farmar will be ready to step up when his number is called, but he’s also excited to learn from one of the best PGs of all time.
Farmar is the most equipped for L.A.'s offense
Farmar will not begin the season starting at the 1-spot, but if Nash is relegated to the bench with an injury for any extended period of time, he’ll have to beat out Steve Blake for the primary ball-handling role.
And like Nash, Blake is simply not a starter.
The 10-year vet shot just over 31 percent from the field and beyond the arc in eight preseason games, as Farmar thrived with 13 points (on 50-percent shooting) and five assists in four contests.
While Blake can be a serviceable role player, Farmar has shown the ability to ignite coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense this preseason with flashy distribution, defensive stops and athletic drives to the basket.
With fellow newcomers Wesley Johnson and Nick Young running the break, Farmar is the only one of L.A.’s point guards who will be able to keep up with them in transition. In addition, his ability to drive into the paint will be crucial in such a pick-and-roll-heavy scheme.
That’s not to say that Nash and Blake are going to be nonfactors. Both of those guys are actually going to play serious roles in the outcome of Los Angeles’ chase for a playoff spot.
But for the team to reach its maximum potential, Farmar needs to emerge as the leader of the backcourt rotation.
Lakers will need game-changing ability
Farmar told Melissa Rohlin of the L.A. Times that his experience overseas made him a better, more confident player, and that he’ll be able to translate that onto the court for the Lakers this season:
"It was the first time in my professional career where I got to carry a team," he said of Turkish team Anadolu Efes, where he averaged 13.8 points and 3.9 assists in 29 games. "I was taking and making big shots. I was at the free throw line at the end of games. I was responsible for how we were going to perform as a team because I had a lot of the load.
"I never had that as a professional yet. Just going through that, I think gave me a lot more opportunity to see what works, to learn my game, to just figure myself out as a player and a person."
As Bryant continues to recover from his Achilles injury, Los Angeles will need scoring out of the backcourt, and a rejuvenated Farmar will be ready to jump in and provide that offense.
While he’s not going to win any awards or set any records, Jordan Farmar will become one of the Lakers' most crucial players as the team chases a playoff spot in 2013-14.
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