Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 100-88 win over the New Jersey Nets on Friday ...
It played out just how Phil Jackson hoped it would.
With the Nets and former Lakers Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar in town, Jackson spoke before the game as if he was a fantasy sports owner who had two players on his roster playing against the team he really roots for.
"I hope both of them have a good game but it doesn’t contribute to a win for the Nets," Jackson said. "That’s the best you can do."
He got his wish. Vujacic scored 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting off the bench (showing he's still got that quick trigger finger) and Farmar scored 12 on 5-of-11 and the Nets actually made a game of it, closing the gap to two with 7:31 remaining in the fourth quarter following a Vujacic 3-pointer.
The 17 points were the most Vujacic had scored at Staples Center in more than two years, dating back to Dec. 28, 2008 against Golden State.
“Let me put it this way -- I’m breathing again," Vujacic said before the game about his increased playing time and averages in New Jersey. "I was suffocating for quite a while. I’m breathing again. I’m just being honest. And it’s fun. It’s fun to play again. It’s fun to rebuild. It’s [a] new challenge.”
Said Nets coach Avery Johnson, "He’s a guy that I’ve described as positive energy. He lights up a room. He really cares about playing basketball. He loves to play the game. He plays it with passion and he’s in a situation in his career right now where he really wants to prove that he can be a really solid player on a team. His seven years here were great years for him, but now I think he feels that it’s time for him to spread his wings and he’s really excited about this opportunity with our franchise."
Vujacic received a tepid ovation from the home crowd and actually earned a smattering of boos when he canned his first jumper in the early going. Farmar on the other hand, who was honored with a pregame video set to Kanye West's "Homecoming" and presented with his 2010 championship ring by Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant at center court, was given the red-carpet treatment by fans in the arena who rose to their feet with a hearty standing ovation for the L.A. native.
"The reception was amazing," Farmar said. "They kind of raised me. You know, I was born and raised in the city and everything I know about basketball. It was great to feel the love from my home city. I was looking forward to getting a win and we came up a little short."
Friday marked the halfway point in the Lakers season and now the hard part begins. Los Angeles closes out the month of January with seven more games, six of which promise to be difficult. It starts Sunday against the resurgent Clippers who recently beat the Miami Heat and who almost knocked off the Lakers in their first meeting, falling at the buzzer on a Fisher floater. It continues Monday against Oklahoma City, the first meeting between the two teams since the Thunder gave the Lakers all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs. After that there are road games in Dallas and Denver and three more home games to round out the month against Utah, Sacramento and a Finals rematch against Boston.
"Really we will see the meat of our schedule coming up," Jackson said.
Said Ron Artest: "We’re going to see where we’re at at this point in the season, but I think we’re OK. I think we’re pulling it together."
With the win against the Nets, L.A. extended its winning streak to seven games. Jackson said Thursday he would like to see the Lakers put together some lengthy winning streaks in the second half of the season.
"I haven’t started counting [our current winning streak] yet," Jackson said. "But yes, we’d like to [push it to double digits]. Obviously there are two large games that loom before this one before we even head out on the road trip, but yes, this is a good time for us to work and keep trying to do the best we can defensively as we’re starting to get a feel for what we’re trying to do."
In a battle between two of the league's bright young centers, the final numbers indicate Brook Lopez dominated Andrew Bynum. That was only sort of the truth. Bynum had his worst game since returning to the starting lineup 10 games ago against New Orleans, finishing with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, five rebounds and two blocks. His production was limited by foul trouble as he was whistled for five fouls, limiting his playing time to just 22 minutes.
Lopez finished with 35 points on 13-of-19 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. The point total was one off his season high and two off his career high.
"That center is pretty good," Artest said of Lopez. "That was unexpected. I don’t know how many centers are as good as him in the NBA."
They were both the 10th pick in the NBA draft, Bynum in 2005 and Lopez in 2008.
After a crazy spell where the team picked up 15 technical fouls in 10 games, the Lakers went T-less in their last two games against Cleveland and Golden State. They almost made it three in a row without an infraction until Lamar Odom was given a tech with 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"When they had me in the corner, they were fouling me on purpose," Odom said. "I was a little bit more upset because now, you don’t call it and my guy’s getting stitches, so I was like, ‘Call the foul.’ And it was a minute left so I was like, ‘They’re fouling me on purpose, dude. Call it.’ And I wanted the points."
The guy getting stitches Odom was referring to is Pau Gasol who took a vicious foul across the face from Nets forward Kris Humphries after the referees didn't call what Odom felt was an initial, intentional foul on him. Gasol didn't end up needing stitches but was examined after the game for a broken nose which he did not have. "Everything is fine," Gasol said. "Just an unfortunate foul."
Part of Odom's frustration came from his free throw shooting. He went just 5-of-11 on the night. His season free throw average is now 64.9 percent, well below his career average of 69.8 percent.
"Being on the free throw line has been my Achilles’ heel," Odom said. "Think about the season and I could probably be at 18-19 points per game if it wasn’t for weak free throw shooting."
Odom is averaging 15.5 points on the season and has stated his goal of making the All-Star team for the first time in his 12-year career.
While Odom and Humphries battled on the court, their respective love interests -- Khloe and Kim Kardashian -- sat next to one another in second row seats behind the basket furthest from the Lakers bench.
Humphries had 15 rebounds off the bench, perhaps making himself too busy to exchange pleasantries with Odom.
"I’ve never met him," Odom said, despite the fact the two have played basketball against one another on numerous occasions. "I haven’t met him. I don’t really know him."
Bryant finished with 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting. It was his third straight game shooting 50 percent or better from the field and it came on the heels of his masterful 39-point performance against the Warriors.
"I think he's got a real good game-mind going with himself," Jackson said. "He's taking and picking his spots and directing the traffic well. I like it."
Bryant displayed an explosive first step, eluding Farmar and finishing with a highlight reel-worthy reverse layup and on another occasion finishing a two-handed dunk right on Vujacic who came over to help.
"He’s been quick and he’s been quick off the floor," Jackson said.
You would figure the toughest challenge the Lakers upcoming game against the Clippers would present would be Blake Griffin. You would be wrong. It's actually the tip-off time.
"We expect a tough game," Gasol said. "It’s also a 12:30 game, an awkward time for us, that we’re not certainly used to. We have to come out ready to be challenged."
Quote of the night: "He shot it tonight very well … He had no misses." -- Jackson on Steve Blake's 0-for-0 shooting line. The backup point guard is just 2-for-11 in his last five games from the field and shooting 37.1 percent from the floor for the season.
Stats of the night: Artest scored 14 points, marking just the second time all season he has had three straight games of 10 or more. He has topped double digits in five of his last six games and is shooting 15-for-29 (51.7 percent) over his last three ... Shannon Brown is enjoying a similar uptick in scoring, finishing with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Nets. He is averaging 12 points on 18-for-32 shooting (56.3 percent) over his last four games ... The Lakers won despite being outrebounded 45-38 and outscored 44-36 in the paint.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.