Farmar going through Gasol, win or lose

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
11:06
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jordan Farmar scanned the visitor's locker room at FedEx Forum at halftime Wednesday.

His Los Angeles Lakers had already dug themselves a 19-point hole through the first two quarters to the Memphis Grizzlies -- a night after being outscored by 17 in the final two quarters at Indiana, meaning Farmar and the rest of the guys had been through a full game's worth of blowout city up to that point.

[+] EnlargeFarmar
Justin Ford/USA TODAY SportsJordan Farmar, right, made sure the Lakers would make the second half in Memphis respectable by flowing the offense through Pau Gasol.
The point guard wondered to himself who in the room could save them from having the final stretch of their season becoming a complete and utter exercise in futility.

This season is not what he signed up for when he left more than $3 million on the table in Turkey this past summer to return to his hometown team.

A rash of injuries, mounting losses and a roster made up primarily of players -- himself included -- on one-year deals, had created a caustic environment.

So when Farmar went searching for some kind of savior on a cold night in Memphis, his eyes settled on the guy he knew has what it takes to be a winner: Pau Gasol.

Like Farmar, Gasol had resisted simply accepting what has happened to the once-proud Lakers franchise this season. He spoke up about it Tuesday, calling out coach Mike D'Antoni for not creating accountability in the locker room through discipline and calling out his teammates for being selfish in the way they played the game.

So, Farmar had an idea: Forget small ball. Forget pick-and-rolls. Let's go through Gasol and let the chips fall where they may.

"I suggested it at halftime," Farmar said. "He's our best player by far. He's a many-time All-Star. He's one of the best players in the NBA. We have to use him to his strengths. We can't just expect him to just play through the motions and figure it out. So, playing through him, he's a willing passer and once he starts going to work, guys start doubling, guys get open shots, open driving angles and things like that. So, I suggested it, we did it and it worked out for us for a while."

Gasol, who had only five points and three shots in the first half, became the linchpin in the second half, funneling the offense through him and scoring 12 more points on 11 shots and dishing out three assists. The Lakers nearly came all the way back, too, pulling to within three in the final minute before falling 108-103 to Memphis.

"I think being a little more organized offensively, I think, was a big difference from the first half to the second half," Gasol said. "We were able to make plays, to be patient, to go inside-out. Just really poised, I think, and not turning the ball over so much."

L.A. shot 43.2 percent in the first half with 10 turnovers and then 55 percent with only five turnovers in the second after making the change.

"We came in here and we looked at each other like we want to have a chance to win every night," Farmar said. "It doesn't make sense to go out there and lose by 20 with guys going for their numbers and stuff. Let's play good basketball. Let's play through our best player and figure it out from there."

Even the newest Lakers, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, added in a trade with the Golden State Warriors exactly one week ago, appeared to fall in line.

After jacking up 19 shots against the Pacers, Bazemore was tied with Farmar and Gasol for the team lead in assists (three) in the second half against the Grizzlies with only one turnover. After needing 10 shots to make four against Indiana, Brooks was far more efficient against Memphis, needing only six to make five.

"Just take what the defense gives you," Bazemore said of his second-half adjustment. "It's better than me trying to dribble in there, turning the ball over and giving them easy points."

The only problem with the plan is that it's somewhat subversive to what D'Antoni's system is. Gasol and Farmar want no part of the up-and-down ball the rest of the way, especially if it's going to benefit only newcomers such as Bazemore, Brooks and Kendall Marshall, as they put up empty, eye-popping numbers in losses over the final 24 games of the season.

But if D'Antoni proved anything last season, it's that he is flexible. Fundamentally, he believes his style of play is the best form of basketball there is, but he'll concede style for victories.

"You got to play with a certain spirit, and I thought the second half we did," D'Antoni said.

And Gasol was their spiritual leader thanks to an assist from Farmar.

"It's not always the solution, but we should have a healthy dosage of him," Farmar said. "Just give him his touches and he's not going to shoot it every time. He's a very willing passer and a playmaker, so just try to use him and let him do what he does."

With Kobe Bryant and his five ring's worth of experience not guaranteed to return this season, Farmar and Gasol's combined four championships will have to do.

"I'm trying to keep it light in here," Farmar said. "Let everybody feel good about themselves and compete so we have a chance to win every night.

"It can be much more enjoyable than the alternative."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0