During Tuesday’s Los Angeles Lakers 115-89 win over the Utah Jazz, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak must have been smiling. Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson, two of the Lakers’ most publicized captures this offseason, provided a glimpse at what they had to offer this season.
In the first half, Johnson saved the Lakers when they seemingly forgot how to make layups, rebound and shoot a basketball. With the Lakers taking nearly four minutes to score their first basket, the easy excuse was to blame the sluggish start on the recent trip to China.
Six minutes into the game, the Lakers only had seven points. Coach Mike D’Antoni decided to put in Wesley Johnson. It was a good move.
Johnson went on to score 12 points over the next 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, the Lakers trailed by as many as 10 points, but Johnson’s five made baskets on six shots saw the Lakers up by five by time he exited the game with 7:44 remaining in the second quarter.
Johnson’s scoring woke up the offense, and the Lakers scored 27 points during Johnson’s 10-minute spell on the floor.
In the second half, Farmar came to life. After going scoreless in the first half, the backup point guard finished with 20 points and only missed one shot out of nine attempts. The former UCLA Bruin was aggressive and also got himself to the free throw line nine times, more than any other player in the game.
Steve Nash decided to remain in the locker room after halftime due to a neck issue, and Farmar benefited from the extra available minutes. Nash similarly did not return for the second half in the Lakers’ previous game in Shanghai. Farmar’s second half not only showed that the Lakers have a capable backup for Nash when the Canadian is healthy; it also showed that LA has a quality replacement should Nash go down with an injury.
Some would argue that the Lakers would be better off if Nash was dressed in a suit this season, but that is a discussion for a different day. If Farmar continues his strong play, there will be plenty of those days this season.
Obviously, the Lakers also have Steve Blake, but Blake had injury issues all of last year. Blake’s 33-year-old body is certainly not the Lakers’ insurance plan at point guard. Farmar provides the Lakers with enough depth, experience, and quality at the vital position. After being exposed at the point last season, Farmar's performance was a welcomed sight from the third point guard on the roster..
On Tuesday night, the Lakers beat the Jazz in a meaningless preseason game. For the Lakers, however, the night featured a delicious first taste of what Farmar and Johnson can provide this season. That, alone, made this a night full of meaning.