Before the Lakers can fast forward to Sunday's game against the suddenly hot Clippers or Monday's big game at home against the Thunder, there's the little matter of the New Jersey Nets. The 10-28 Nets, losers of eight of their last 10, and 18 of 21 road games overall.
They are not good, but are still at least somewhat interesting thanks to the presence of Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, both of whom make their first appearances at Staples since being traded earlier this season and signing with the Nets last summer, respectively. For the Lakers, winning the game involves repeating the things allowing them to win their last six games. Move the ball, use the bigs, play some defense, pay attention. For the Nets, it's a little more complicated.
To gain a little more insight, I hit up Mark Ginocchio, of TrueHoop's Nets Are Scorching to answer a few questions...
1) Sasha Vujacic's career in L.A. was decidedly a mixed bag. In Jersey, he's getting playing time he never got here. How has he fit in with the team and with fans? How is Avery Johnson using him on the floor, and what impact does it have?
Sasha's quick ascent with the Nets has really been amazing and surprised a lot of people. A lot of Nets fans were bummed because of outside of the draft picks, Vujacic was the only tangible player the team received for Terrence Williams - a guy who's got boatloads of talent, but just can't seem to put it together (and hasn't yet in Houston). The Nets version of Sasha has been a tenacious defender, a very good long-ranger shooter (40 percent from three) and a clutch player with one game-winning shot already on his NJ resume. As our playbook specialist Justin DeFeo pointed out in December, Sasha has added a new element on offense as being really the only guy
on this team who can effectively curl off screens and drain a jump shot.
2) Jordan Farmar and Sasha weren't necessarily seen as best buddies in L.A., but obviously know each other's games well. Have you seen any evidence of constructive on-floor chemistry between the two?
Yeah, I've heard some buzz about the Farmar/Sasha issues when he arrived here, but I've honestly haven't seen or heard anything since the trade to suggest that anything has carried over. With that said, I can't really claim to see any great chemistry developing there, just because the Sasha trade also reignited a lot of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors that really seem to be dragging this team down as a unit. I don't know if any of these guys are demonstrating chemistry right now, regardless of their histories.
3) The Nets gave the Lakers problems in New Jersey, but have been a hideous road team. What has to happen for them to win Friday?
Well, going back to my prior answer, I think the 'Melo stuff is really hitting a breaking point with this team, so I'm not terribly confident in the Nets executing enough to pull an upset. There are eight guys on this roster that could be told to pack their bags at any given minute and while the team looked relatively focused against Phoenix on Wednesday, they still blew a double digit fourth quarter lead and lost in OT. The last time the Nets won in LA, they had Kidd-Carter-Jefferson and the Lakers did not have Pau Gasol.
But for fun, I'll say if Devin Harris goes for a big night (say 30-plus points and 12 assists) and a combination of Stephen Graham and Sasha can hound Kobe into a poor shooting night, AND the Nets get a big game from someone in their frontcourt (either Travis Outlaw or Derrick Favors), they might make it close.
Thanks again to Mark for weighing in.