Making a case

Ronny Turiaf walked out of the locker room Thursday night saying “Best point guard in the draft.” He was sure somebody had to be listening to his praise of Jordan Farmar.

Whether Farmar will be better than Marcus Williams, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry and the others won’t be decided for years. But Farmar had a tremendous fourth quarter in the Lakers’ 104-101 victory over Seattle.

After getting garbage time in Tuesday’s game, Farmar led the Lakers in the fourth quarter two nights later. The Lakers shot 68.4 percent in the fourth and went from three points down at the beginning to seven points ahead before holding on for the victory. Farmar had four assists in the quarter.

You can’t deny that Farmar has instincts far beyond a typical 19-year-old. He ran two perfect pick-and-pop plays with Brian Cook, the second of which resulted in the go-ahead 3-pointer. Farmar also had the presence to come from the blind side for a steal against Mickael Gelabale that led to a fastbreak basket for Ronny Turiaf.

Now consider that – – in a one-minute stretch in the second quarter – – Farmar hit a 3-pointer, fed Turiaf for a dunk, then stole the subsequent inbounds pass, leading to a Devin Green basket. That’s seven points Farmar accounted for there.

The minutes he got Thursday might be the most he plays in any fourth quarter this season. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said he wanted to rest Smush Parker with games coming up against Phoenix (Steve Nash) and Sacramento (Mike Bibby). Farmar still has to prove he can make shots and defend opposing point guards.

Most of his minutes Thursday came against Mike Wilks, who has played for six NBA teams in parts of five seasons. How much fun would it have been to see Farmar play Earl Watson in a battle of former UCLA guards?

It’s good to see Farmar making the most of his opportunities. He’s at least raising the issue of whether he deserves a spot on the active roster for games this season. He raises the energy when he’s on the court.

“His poise does not surprise me,” Rambis said. “You can see that he grew up being a point guard. He’s able to make good decisions at appropriate times. He understands basketball. He picked up this offense really quickly. We’re still scratching the surface of this offense, so there’s a lot more for him to learn.

“But he understands what his job is, he understands what everybody else’s job is. That type of basketball IQ bodes well for him, it’s going to carry him far in this league just because he understands things and pick things up quickly.”

You can tell the Lakers appreciate Farmar’s game because they draw the distinction between being a professional and being a rookie.

“Jordan’s big-game ready,” Lamar Odom said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence with him,” Cook added. “He’s a professional player. He knows how to play the game, he knows how to read the game. He’s a pure point guard. He’s a leader. When you get out there with other people who know how to play the game, it makes everybody’s job a lot easier.”

* * *

Some notes from Thursday’s game: Odom was playing with a shin guard after getting kicked in his lower leg during Tuesday’s game in Fresno . . . The Lakers cut center Mamadou N’Diaye and forward Marcus Douthit, neither of whom even played Tuesday . . . Sasha Vujacic is suffering from a strained muscle in his left foot, did not play Thursday and will miss three or four days while recovering.

* * *

Cook led the Lakers with 16 points on 7 for 10 shooting, which would have been impressive enough until he showed me his right thumb after the game. He had surgery on the thumb after a freak summer injury and compared his right thumb to his left for my benefit. His right thumb is about 50 percent larger, so swollen that it doesn’t have any of the wrinkles or creases around the kunckles your normal thumb has.

This is the third finger Cook has broken since coming to the Lakers. He said he knows exactly what he is doing playing with the injury.

* * *

Andrew Bynum had his good moments and his bad moments when he played in the first half. Bynum threw one ill-advised bounce pass in the lane to Cook that the Sonics easily stole. He did score off a dunk and a putback and hit both free throws he took.

* * *

The game’s biggest lowlight came courtesy of guard Von Wafer in the third quarter. After Green made a spectacular block against Robert Swift and Aaron McKie saved the loose ball, Wafer air-mailed a pass into the seats. He followed with another turnover 30 seconds later.

The Lakers called timeout and Rambis had every player head to the bench while he grabbed Wafer and chewed him out. Wafer finished the quarter on the court but didn’t play afterward.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

ANAHEIM–There might not be a better big man in the NBA than Lakers forward Brian Cook when it comes to shooting the ball, at least in general manager Mitch Kupchaks opinion.

Whether that will lead to a contract extension, however, has yet to be determined.

The deadline to reach agreement with Cook is Oct. 31, the same day the Lakers open the regular season against Phoenix. Cooks agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Thursday that talks are ongoing and interest on both sides is mutual.

Cook is eligible for an extension that could add up to five seasons to his rookie contract. He recently bought a house in the area and said he is “comfortable with the Lakers, who drafted him in 2003.

“Its somewhere that Id love to be, said Cook, who will make $1.8 million this season. “Well see how it goes.

If no deal is reached, Cook would be a restricted free agent next summer, with the Lakers having the right to match any offer made to him.

“I dont think theres any doubt that Brians an NBA player, Kupchak said. “He may be the best shooting guy his size in the NBA.

“ There are some things he doesnt do as well as others, but I dont think theres any doubt in the last two to three years that hes established himself as being an NBA player with great size and a quick release with the ability to shoot the ball with range.

“And guys like that in this league are hard to come by.

The most difficult thing may be determining Cooks value in a league where forwards Caron Butler, Mike Dunleavy and Tayshaun Prince all signed $40 million extensions last October.

Cook, 25, averaged 7.9 points and played 19 minutes last season, shooting better than 50 percent overall and 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

The Lakers also have until Oct. 31 to exercise the fourth-year option in guard Sasha Vujacics contract as well as the third-year option for center Andrew Bynum.

Vujacic would be an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Lakers do not exercise the option, which would pay him $1.75 million for the 2007-08 season.

Second act: The Lakers played a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Maurice Evans and Cook in the fourth quarter and beat Seattle 104-101 in their second exhibition game.

Cook had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth and hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:07 left off a pick-and-pop play with Farmar.

“Hes pro ready, forward Lamar Odom said of Farmar. “Thats what they call guys like him.

Farmar finished with 10 points and five assists – – four in the fourth quarter – – in 19:23 of action. The Lakers outscored the Sonics 53-41 with Farmar on the court.

“I definitely feel I can contribute in a lot of ways, Farmar said. “But thats not my call. I can just control the things I can control, go out there and play the way I know how to play.

Farmar and Walton had back-to-back steals leading to baskets in the quarter. Turiaf converted two free throws with 8.2 seconds left after missing 5 of 6 at one point.

Bynum suffered a mild left ankle sprain in the second quarter and didnt return. Vladimir Radmanovic, who suffered a hand injury before Tuesdays game in Fresno, missed 7 of 8 shots and finished with six points.

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  • Mike

    Great report! I love all locker room stories that we fans don’t get to see. Thanks.

  • purple and gold

    do u have an idea how long bynum will be out?
    a couple of day?a week?wont be out ?

  • Michael Teniente

    As alway…great reporting.


  • gdchild

    So, Smush hasn’t impressed you guys?