Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar have their Matt Damon - Ben Affleck thing going on, no question about it.
The question is, does that friendship translate into success onto the NBA floor?
“I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation between being good friends and playing well together on the court,” said Walton upon first consideration. “I think it more has to do with our styles of playing the game. We both understand the game pretty well and over the past two years, we’ve played a lot of 2-of-2 and 3-on-3 with each other and developed a good feel for each other’s games.”
Farmar had a different perspective.
“It definitely helps,” he countered. “If you’re friends with someone, you know their game, you know what they’re good at, you know how to put them in a position to be successful and you want them to be successful. They want the same for you, so it’s a different kind of chemistry and feeling out there when you like, know and enjoy people you’re playing with.”
So … which is it?
Perhaps being good friends encourages more time spent with a guy on and off the basketball court, which encourages a better understanding of one another’s game and thus, more success on the floor?
“Yeah, that’s more like it,” Walton allowed. “It’s a little easier to make things happen when you’re that familiar, and Jordan and I tend to complement each other better because of that.”
Generally, while any NBA basketball player is on the floor, he will try and make the right basketball play. You know … If a guy’s wide open under the rim, feed him the ball instead of taking a contested shot. Things like that. As such, while Farmar and Walton may look to find each other due in part to their familiarity, they won’t force something if it’s not there just because they’re buds. Still, playing together in the summer (all those 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 games Walton referenced) pushes familiarity past the normal level of guys who’ve spent only three seasons together, and haven’t played a ton of minutes together on the floor.
“We know each other’s games and we’re comfortable enough to say something to one another if one of us is a little off,” he said. “Sometimes Jordan will call a play to get me going if he thinks I have a good matchup or something.”
For example, to spark L.A.’s fourth quarter comeback in Saturday’s win at Chicago, Farmar called the play “center opposite” to get Walton down on the block to take advantage of mismatches within the Bulls' small lineup.
“We actually tried to run it a couple times early with Kirk Hinrich guarding Luke, and Luke passed out to guys who didn’t finish,” explained Farmar, who scored eight fourth quarter points of his own in the United Center. “We were about to go away from it, but I thought, you know what, let’s clear out, give Luke space and have him do what he does. It worked.”
Chicago countered by putting John Salmons on Walton, but Farmar thought that Walton would have an edge there as well.
“I thought he could still work on Salmons, and if people came to help, Luke’s a good enough passer to find somebody open,” said L.A.’s backup point guard. “Just knowing what somebody’s abilities are and letting them do what they do well is part of playing my position.”
It can work the other way as well, according to Walton: “Against (Golden State), we had done (that isolation play) a couple times in a row, so I came out and set a back pick for Jordan which got him an open look for three, because I was rolling to the post and both defenders went with me. He knocked it down. That's fun basketball.”
The two California natives have just as much fun off the court.
“These seasons are long, and you have to find things to do to pass the time when you’re on these long road trips,” said Walton. “Most people work nine to five, but when you get done playing ball, you can’t do things that require too much activity because you need to stay off your feet and relax ... Jordan and I do that a lot.”
Monday in Oklahoma City, Farmar and Walton could be found playing college football on Farmar's X-Box 360 and ordering room service ... And it's not much different back home in Manhattan Beach, minus the room service.
“Jordan lives right down the street from me, so we’ll go get lunch or dinner, get online and play some video games or whatever, basically just have a lot of fun doing it,” concluded Walton.
“Luke and Brian Cook at the time took me under their wing when I was a rookie, just welcomed me and we’d always go to meals and just kick it,” added Farmar. “It just grew from there, and now he’s one of my best friends in the world. Plus it’s a lot of fun playing hoops with him.”
Take a look at how Walton and Farmar look together on the court at the start of the second and fourth quarter’s against Oklahoma City. Keep an eye on the duo as L.A. travels through Detroit, New Jersey, Atlanta, Charlotte and Milwaukee. Perhaps by zeroing in on the two Lakers, we’ll see that an off-the-court friendship does indeed equal on-court production … Even if indirectly.