By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Nov 18 2008 5:50PM
LOS ANGELES -- Derek Fisher's legacy with the Lakers is set in stone after being a key member of the Lakers three-peat from 2000-02, hitting that impossible shot with 0.4 seconds left against San Antonio and starting with the team in the same rookie class as Kobe Bryant. He also serves as perhaps the lone teammate that Bryant trusted and respected for his level of dedication throughout his whole career.
But while Kobe's level of play continues to rise in his 13th season, time is starting to catch up with the 34-year old Fisher, who is shooting .349 from the field. Fisher is still Phil Jackson's most trusted option at the point guard position, still starting and playing 27.9 minutes a night, but while Bryant doesn't have to worry about Trevor Ariza nabbing his spot at the two guard, Fisher has somebody waiting in the wings.
Third-year point guard Jordan Farmar just might be the most underrated player in the league. Despite playing eight minutes less per game than Fisher, he averages more assists, steals and rebounds than the vet and shoots a higher percentage from the field.
"My shooting has definitely improved," Farmar said. "If the defense is backing up, I'm becoming a professional in learning not to force the issue or push it too far. If the defense gives you a shot, you just take it and knock it down."
After a breakout preseason leading the Lakers in points per game, Farmar has settled into his role off the bench. Fisher has one year remaining on his contract after this season as does Farmar on his rookie deal, but expect the 21-year old to take over the reins and be granted a contract extension.
Farmar is still learning, but as the leader of the Lakers' second unit, he is always looking for an opportunity to give his team a spark.
"I'm going to make mistakes but they're going to be errors of commission, trying to make something happen, not make mistakes because I'm afraid," Farmar said. "I want to be aggressive and take it to them all the time."
While Fisher relies on strength and a sneaky lefty stroke, Farmar excels with his speed, leaping ability and outside jumper that looks like he shoots with two hands.
One thing the pair have in common is their maturity. Fisher is the president of the player's association and Farmar has long been wise beyond his years. Farmar sent SAT prep books to fellow L.A. native Nick Young when they were both in high school (when he heard that Young was struggling with his test scores) and Farmar ran basketball clinics in Israel this past summer to promote peace for Israeli and Palestinian children through the game.
"I think what Jordan has done is he has not become complacent in his success," Fisher told the L.A. Daily News. "That's why he's continued to separate himself so early in his career. He's willing to put the extra hours in. Extra time watching film, looking at what he's done wrong and what he's done right."
The Lakers face a pair of point guards that draw interesting parallels to Farmar and Fisher this week. They play the Bulls on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBATV) and go up against the young, up-and-coming Derrick Rose running the show, followed by the Suns on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT) who trot out the experienced former MVP, Steve Nash.
• Shareef Abdur-Rahim retired in September after his 12-year playing career was abruptly cut short due to two arthroscopic knee surgeries. Abdur-Rahim traded in the jersey for a clipboard when the Kings hired him to coach Sacramento's big men.
"When you finish, you have what we call a 'paper bag full of knowledge,' " Kings head coach Reggie Theus said after the Kings played the Clippers recently. "Right now we're trying to show him how to put it to use with drills and things like that. There's a difference between knowing how to do something and teaching how to do it.
"We're trying to point out the subtleties of how the locker room is going to change for him," Theus continued. "He's not so popular in the locker room with the guys anymore."
"His role is to sort of be a dual thing -- I need him to be in the locker room with the guys, but at the same time his job is to find a way in his own words when he speaks to the guys to put our message through."
• Speaking of big-man coaches, the NBA mourns the passing of the Pete Newell who died on Monday at the age of 93. Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 after serving as a college coach, NBA general manager and working with U.S.A. Basketball, Newell spent the twilight of his career working with players such as Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Walton at his big-man camp held every summer in Hawaii and Las Vegas.
Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss gushed about his former employee. "Pete was one of the most brilliant teachers and coaches the game has ever known, and was also an exceptional front office man as the Lakers General Manager from 1972-76," Buss said in a statement released by the team. "He was a great help to me when I first purchased the Lakers and he was very generous with his time and counsel. In addition to his great contributions to the basketball world, Pete was also one of the finest gentlemen we've known."
• Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison hasn't been considered to be the best at anything on the basketball court since he finished his days at the University of Kansas, but Portland's Channing Frye recently bestowed a superlative title on the former Jayhawk. Speaking to Jason Quick of The Oregonian, Frye called Collison the "sweatiest player in the NBA" along with himself, Shaquille O'Neal, teammate Greg Oden, Zach Randolph and Malik Rose.
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