On Monday, the Lakers issued the following press release:
Lakers guard Jordan Farmar, who was injured in the first quarter of last night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, had an ultrasound test and was examined this morning by Dr. Luga Podesta. Farmar was diagnosed with a tear of his left hamstring. It is expected that he will be out approximately four weeks.
So how much of a loss is Farmar? Writing for Forum Blue & Gold, Darius Soriano explains that it’s the overall game that matters more than the highlight reels:
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.
Farmar's loss especially stings with Steve Blake pressed into starting duty in lieu of an injured Steve Nash.
The closest thing to a solution comes in the shape of a shooting guard, and if there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Lakers are fairly deep at this position. That’s not to say that any of the candidates possess true point guard attributes.
Jodie Meeks has run the point on occasion with questionable results. Although he worked on his ball-handling skills over the summer, he’s still best-suited to letting the three-ball fly. Meeks is currently starting at the 2-guard position, although that will likely change once Kobe Bryant returns.
The better choice would be Xavier Henry, who has decent handles, can penetrate to the basket and also has a good outside stroke. Henry ran the point for extended minutes Sunday night, racking up 27 points in the process. At issue is a certain lack of table-setting skills. Henry has a grand total of 13 assists in 18 games this season. So there’s that.
Of course, the question that we’re keying on is whether Farmar’s injury derails the bench in particular. It’s a bit of a conundrum.
Switching Henry from one reserve guard slot to the other doesn’t necessarily impinge his love of scoring, but there could be a nasty ripple effect on both ends of the floor. Shawne Williams can put in more time at the 3, Nick Young can shift to his natural 2 and Henry can run the point, but watch out for opposing speed demons—there’s nobody on that Lakers unit with the lateral quickness of Farmar.
What about signing another guard?
There isn't a lot of quality help available on the cheap, although there are a few ex-Lakers whose names keeping cropping up. Darius Morris was recently waived by the Philadelphia 76ers, Shannon Brown was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Washington Wizards and then waived, and Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic has been working out on the beach and posting sunset pics:
It’s doubtful that any of these guys are a real upgrade over Henry.
Morris was a star at U of M but never showed enough consistency initiating the offense during two seasons with the Lakers. His numbers improved over a 12-game stint in Philly but not enough to avoid the waiver wire.
Brown had some of his best years in L.A. but he’s an athletic 2-guard who essentially duplicates guys already on the roster.
As for Vujacic—there’s just too many ways to go with this. Yes, he plays hyper-ferret defense and can score the ball from either of the guard positions. And yes, his 56 games with the Brooklyn Nets accounted for the best stats of his NBA career. Still, he’s got a bit of a needy personality and poses a question mark when it comes to bench unity.
It’s quite possible that the Lakers bench slips a bit when it comes to league-leading stats in the coming weeks. It’s also possible that a bench unit that has shown such good chemistry and a willingness to share the ball can find a way to adapt. It could happen. It really could.