Tuesday, January 19, 2010
By Dave McMenamin ESPNLosAngeles.com
Shannon Brown #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers mishandles the ball against Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at Staples Center on January 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
The NBA Finals rematch between the Lakers and Magic that the league planned as the capper of a full 12-game schedule in honor of Martin Luther King Day was upstaged by a couple of backups.
Lakers reserves Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar combined to score 33 points and keyed a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter that helped lift Los Angeles to a 98-92 win over Orlando on Monday.
L.A. entered the fourth quarter trailing by four points when Lamar Odom got things started with a couple baskets down low to tie the game up.
A steal by Brown set up nine straight points by Farmar in just 1:16 of playing time to break the game open.
The flurry by Farmar was basically him doing his best Brown impression because in the second quarter Brown had a run of his own when he scored 11 points in the span of just 4:37.
"Jordan and Shannon did a great job coming in and creating havoc," Kobe Bryant said. "That's what we need them to do. We need them to create turnovers, create energy for us and tonight defensively was a perfect blueprint for them. It was a bonus that they made shots and scored the ball. Defensively, that's what we need them to do."
Brown used his arms -- that are so long he probably doesn't need to bend down to tie his shoes -- to collect two steals. Farmar had a one as well, utilizing his quickness and the Magic guards had fits dealing with the pressure the tandem applied.
The night Brown set a career high in points with 22 belonged to him to begin with.
The attention meter swayed Brown's way before the game even started as the fourth-year guard playing on his fourth NBA team was surrounded by a throng of media hoping to get a sneak preview of what Brown had planned for All-Star weekend after news broke earlier Monday that Shannon will indeed be allowed to dunk in the dunk contest.
It's been less than a year since Brown came to L.A. after being included as a throw-in in the Vladimir Radmanovic-Adam Morrison swap and here he was, in Hollywood, as the center of attention when he couldn't find consistent playing time on lottery-bound Charlotte last year.
"I think about it all the time when I recap everything I've been through," Brown said. "I'm just very grateful. Very grateful, thankful and very humble. I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."
Opportunity is one of the three words Lakers coach Phil Jackson used to describe the formula that's been the key to Brown's success. The others are maturity and responsibility.
"He's a young man who's very diligent about his work," Jackson said. "He puts in the effort and it's paying off for him."
He's become an internet sensation thanks to a grassroots website, LetShannonDunk.com, but seems genuinely taken aback by the hoopla his hops have created. He doesn't mind the attention of course, as the crooked right front tooth in his smile was as omnipresent as yellow t-shirts in the stands, but knows that the spotlight comes and goes.
He was in a pretty popular dunk contest after all in the 2003 McDonald's High School All-American Game. And he happened to beat a pretty popular player that day. You might have heard of LeBron James.
But when James was leading the Cavaliers to the Finals four years later, Brown was just a benchwarmer on that Cleveland team and had just one token appearance during their postseason run.
Hard work is the only method Brown knows when it comes to playing basketball.
"When I first started playing it wasn't like I was good," Brown said. "I was very terrible, actually. My teammates wouldn't pass me the ball."
While Brown's is a story of perseverance, Farmar's is one of patience.
He's been in L.A. his whole career after being drafted by his hometown team with the No. 26 overall pick in 2006. He's played behind Derek Fisher and Smush Parker. He's seen his team spend a first-round pick to draft another point guard in Javaris Crittenton. He kept his mouth shut when Brown was brought in last season while he was still recovering from a left knee injury.
Some people would be like a bucking bull behind a closed gate waiting that long for a chance. Farmar has just used the time to prepare himself.
"My mindset it just to be aggressive the whole game," Farmar said.
His 3-pointer with 9:33 left in the fourth broke a 68-68 tie and gave L.A. the lead for good. It was a pull-up 3 on the break when his team had numbers in their favor, but it was a shot he was prepared to make.
"Jason Williams just kept backing up and I practice my shot with my trainer night-in and night-out," Farmar said. "I'm in the gym every day. I've made that shot thousands and thousands of times. I knew I could make it."
More hard work paying off. It might seem clichéd, but you can't argue with the results.
"It's the same old story, I guess," Brown said. "But it's reality to me."
The win in Game No. 41 of the season makes reality for the Lakers having the best record in the league and the midway point.
Same old story.