Daily Debate: Should the Lakers start Fisher, Farmar or Brown?
Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are used to playing starter-merry-go-round. Frustrating as it might be for the big men, at least they were keeping an eye on the ring.
Point guard wasn't supposed to be so confusing. At the beginning of the season, Jordan Farmar was being groomed to eventually take over for Derek Fisher. Then the Lakers acquired Shannon Brown, who has battled (and frequently beaten) Farmar for the backup role.
But nobody expected Fisher, the team's most veteran player, to suffer a meltdown in the playoffs against Houston. That's being gentle. You want leadership? Fisher clocked the Rockets' Luis Scola so hard he earned an ejection and one-game suspension. Offense? He's managing just 7.3 points per game on 38.1% shooting. Defense? Two words: Aaron Brooks.
Phil Jackson has three options. Whom should he start?
There's no substitute for experience and leadership in the playoffs, and there's nobody else on the team quite like Fisher. If there's any doubt, turn to the team's true icon. "The two leaders must step up and do something about this," said Magic Johnson after the embarrassing Game 4 loss. "And that's Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher."
Jackson also voiced support, saying, "Fish is a great performer under pressure. He's got experience, he knows how to do it. He makes big shots for us. We're very comfortable with him."
Fisher's stats in the first two games against Houston were slightly better than his regular season averages, and with the Rockets coming back to Los Angeles tonight it only makes sense to stick with the guy who has proven that he can get it done.
The Rockets don't have a choice ... they've lost all their big players to injury and have to play small and fast. Farmar provides the Lakers with speed to keep up with Houston. The Rockets have made it clear they want to move the ball, and Farmar can push the Lakers offensive pace if they want to win in a shoot-out.
When Fisher was out in game three, Farmar took his starting spot and played an efficient 32 minutes, notching 12 points, seven assists, two steals, and one blocked shot against just one turnover (an area he has continued to improve in). Perhaps most significantly, he held Brooks to seven points.
This might be the first time Farmar's experience gives him an edge (over Brown), and let's not forget that Brown might not have had the same opportunities late this year if Farmar weren't recovering from a knee injury.
While Farmar was quiet in the playoffs against Utah, Brown came in and averaged 7.2 points in just over 17 minutes per game. And don't discount his contributions in the five Fisher-less quarters, when Brooks had just 10 points. We all know that Brown is the best defensive stopper of this group, and that could be important if the Rockets keep feeding the ball to their hot handed point guard.
Physically, Brown offers better speed than Fisher and better strength than Farmar. He's also coming off the best performance of the three, scoring 14 points and nabbing 3 rebounds in Game 4 against the Rockets. Most telling might be the old +/- stat so common to hockey ... the Lakers outscored the Rockets by 14 points with Brown in the lineup, the largest margin for any player in purple and gold.
-- Adam Rose
Lakers team photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.
Derek Fisher photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.
Jordan Farmar photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.
Shannon Brown photo by Paul Buck/EPA.