A few minutes with Craig Hodges

Billy Witz, Inside the Lakers

One of the several areas the Lakers have taken large leaps this season has been in their outside shooting. The Lakers shot 35.3 percent last year on 3-pointers, 16th in the league. This season, they’re up to 37.5, good for seventh in the NBA. I talked yesterday with special assistant coach Craig Hodges, the former NBA 3-point shooting champ who works with the perimeter shooters, about the progress of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, who have become markedly more consistent this season.

Farmar, in his second season, is shooting 39.3 on 3-pointers, up from 32.8 percent last year. He’s coming off a career-high four 3-pointers against Portland. Vujacic has improved each of his four seasons with the Lakers from 27 percent to 34.3 to 37.3 to this season’s 44.1, which leads the team.

Farmar’s improvement has been helped by better mechanics, which they spent his fiirst 7-8 months working on vigorously.

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Farmar on upward arc for Lakers

Mike Bresnahan, LA Times

PORTLAND, Ore. — Phil Jackson looked down recently from his office window and saw something on the practice court that made him pause.

Jordan Farmar was shooting three-pointers, over and over, after practice had ended.

“It’s certainly paid off,” the Lakers’ coach said.

Farmar, like Sasha Vujacic, has been torrid from long range, making 14 for 28 from behind the arc in the Lakers’ last six games before Friday.

Farmar isn’t exactly the tall triangle-offense type historically preferred by Jackson, although he reeled off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 45 points.

“I have never had a guard quite like that,” Jackson said. “As Jordan would tell you, I have an aversion to small guards.”

Wait, what about B.J. Armstrong? Steve Kerr?

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Fisher’s Leadership Helps Spur Success for Farmar, Lakers

Jim Alexander, The Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES – It’s not hard to overlook Derek Fisher, or to take him for granted.

The Lakers veteran guard is steady. He has seen it all, been through it all in his 12 seasons in the NBA. Heck, during the turbulent but successful Shaq/Kobe era, Fisher seamlessly navigated the tension to the point that he often seemed like the sanest guy in the Lakers’ organization.

At 33, back with the team he broke in with in 1996, he’s still a productive, solid guard.

But production is only part of his role. He also has a lot of wisdom to offer.

Jordan Farmar is listening.

Where Fisher is the savvy veteran, Farmar is the 21-year-old prodigy from LA Fairfax High and UCLA with the high basketball IQ.

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Play of Lakers’ second unit is first-rate

Lakers’ reserves, particularly Farmar, Vujacic and Turiaf, are among the best in the Western Conference.

Mike Bresnahan, LA Times

The Lakers are on top of the Western Conference.

Their reserves might be there, too.

Be it Sasha Vujacic’s three-point accuracy, Jordan Farmar’s push-the-pace persona or Ronny Turiaf’s liveliness around the basket, the Lakers have received continual contributions from their second unit.

Is it the best in the West?

“Well, we’d like to think it was,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

Like the conference race, it’s a close call.

San Antonio has a scoring machine in Manu Ginobili and hardy center-forward Kurt Thomas.

Phoenix has versatile Boris Diaw and whiz-quick Leandro Barbosa coming off the bench.

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Farmar key part of the Lakers’ future

What has elevated the Lakers this season has been greater team-wide grit, and the second-year guard is bringing plenty of it.

By Kevin Ding, OC Register

Lamar Odom set an NBA record for the longest streak of postgame singing in the shower with his performance late Sunday night in Seattle. Jordan Farmar was fully capable as Odom’s backup singer. These Lakers are indeed a glee club now.

And even though they have everything to play for in these coming months, there’s more: They’re going to have everything to play for in these comingyears.

That’s the beauty of the Lakers’ makeover – unlike Phoenix’s facelift (Shaquille O’Neal, 36 next week) and Dallas’ Botox injection (Jason Kidd, 35 next month). Kobe Bryant is 29, Pau Gasol is 27, Andrew Bynum is 20 and Farmar is 21. Yes, Farmar very much merits mention in that line, because the day is most surely coming when Farmar is more valuable to the Lakers than Odom.

Excising Odom might wind up the solution to the Lakers’ biggest future problem, if Jerry Buss chooses to view it as a problem: a hefty luxury-tax hit looming in the 2009-10 season. Future payroll was why so many other NBA owners didn’t want to trade nothing (a big, expiring contract such as Kwame Brown’s) for something (a big, non-expiring contract such as Gasol’s).

Although exactly how high the pile of money goes will be a point of offseason contention, Bynum will need that computer he built to count all the zeroes on the contract extension he’s getting. It will kick in after next season – and the easiest way to offset that jump in Bynum’s salary will be to let Odom’s contract expire after next season. That’s a tough move to make if you’re contending for or already winning championships, because Odom, 28, is a certainly part of the Lakers’ uncommon crew of happy-to-share big men.

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