Things to watch in Lakers-Nets matchup
It'll be a homecoming of sorts for both as Vujacic plays against the Lakers for the first time since being traded Dec. 15 for Joe Smith while Farmar, who departed as a free agent, is returning to Staples Center to collect his championship ring.
No doubt, both players will want to prove something against the Lakers after experiencing frustration for their limited roles. Since joining New Jersey, the two have flourished. Vujacic has averaged 11.3 points and 27.3 minutes in 12 games, including one in which he made the go-ahead basket in a victory last week over Chicago. That's a big difference compared to the 1.8 points in 4.9 minutes he posted in 11 games with the Lakers this season. After averaging 7.2 points in 18 minutes a game last season, Farmar has posted 9.8 points in 24.7 minutes a game for New Jersey. Vujacic, a pesky defender, will likely guard Kobe Bryant, which would produce one entertaining back-and-forth. Farmar would likely try to prove his scoring prowess against Derek Fisher, whom started over him three of the four seasons he was with the Lakers.
"We know it'll be emotional both for Jordan and Aleksander," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, referring to Sasha's real first name. "They'll come out here and want to play well. We know we can't get emotional about it either way."
2. The Nets could be distracted by Carmelo Anthony trade talks
Numerous players with New Jersey have been tied to a possible trade for the Denver forward, including Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, and Derrick Favors. Even if the Nets are insisting that possibility isn't looming over their head, New Jersey's on-court play suggests otherwise. The Nets blew a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Suns. Reports indicate the team mood hasn't been the greatest. And they're in the middle of a four-game trip with a 3-18 road record. It's not the greatest recipe heading into Staples Center against the defending champions.
3. Can the Lakers continue to push momentum?
The real meat of their schedule doesn't begin until next week when they have games against Oklahoma City (Monday), Dallas (Wednesday) and Denver (Friday) as well as marquee games the following two weeks against Utah (Jan. 25) and Boston (Jan. 30). But for now, the Lakers are in a six-game winning streak because of good habits. It's unrealistic to ask them to replicate what they did in their 112-57 victory Tuesday over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the pride they took in mastering ball movement, defensive rotations and overall hustle will help build a stronger foundation once the schedule proves tougher.
"I'd like to see us put a string of games together," Jackson said. "I think that's really important to gain the kind of confidence you have and what you're doing out there regardless of your opponents and go through a space of time in which you get a certain sense of a winning streak and keep it going. There's going to be bad games, games that are close and tight or whatever but you find ways to win and those are the kind of things that send you over the top in the season."
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Photo: Nets point guard Jordan Farmar on the move against the Orlando Magic last month. Credit: Jim O'Connor / US Presswire