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Farmar’s time is coming

Times Staff Writer

It was close, down to the final minute.

Wednesday’s game against Dallas? Not quite.

But rookie Lakers guard Jordan Farmar almost played more minutes than starter Smush Parker, a trend that continues to take place in the team’s backcourt. Parker played 24 minutes against Dallas, Farmar played 23 and they each scored 12 points.

If he hadn’t already, Coach Phil Jackson has dispelled the notion he doesn’t like using rookies, with Farmar scoring 10 points in the first half of a road game against a playoff-tested team. Farmar and Kobe Bryant were the Lakers’ only dependable scoring options at the time.

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Parker, 25 and in the last year of his contract, continues to be the starter and has hit double-figure scoring the last four games, although his playing time is down more than four minutes per game from his average last season of almost 34 minutes.

“He knew this, obviously, from what happened last year in the playoffs, and our first-round draft pick, that Jordan was going to be a player that was going to have an opportunity,” Jackson said recently.

Parker’s struggles against Phoenix last spring in the first round were notable after a regular season in which he established career highs across the board. He made only four of 26 three-point attempts (15.4%) in the playoffs, and his turnovers outnumbered his assists, 12-11. Seven weeks after their playoffs ended, the Lakers drafted Farmar with the 26th pick.

“At first I was concerned that Smush wouldn’t be able to come back and play with the same” intensity, Jackson said. “He showed us [recently] that he’s improved his play.”

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Farmar, 20, is in the first year of a contract that could keep him with the team through 2009-2010, at which point he would become a restricted free agent.

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When the Lakers finished their last exhibition game seven weeks ago, few people had them finishing among the top five Western Conference teams.

Now several media members have them ticketed for the playoffs, along with San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix and Utah.

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Jackson, however, wouldn’t pencil them in as top-five material.

“Not yet,” he said. “We’ve got a whole month of December and late January and February out on the road to understand a little bit more about our team.”

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Think the Lakers miss Lamar Odom? They are 91-74 (.522 winning percentage) in games he’s played and 3-18 in games he has missed (.143), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Bryant is third among all players in All-Star voting, the league announced Thursday. Bryant has 720,375 votes, trailing Yao Ming (836,392) and LeBron James (805,570). The All-Star game is Feb. 18 in Las Vegas.

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TONIGHT

vs. Houston, 7:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

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Records -- Lakers 15-7; Rockets 14-8.

Record vs. Rockets -- 1-0.

Update -- You again? The Lakers just played the Rockets on Tuesday, almost losing a 27-point lead before winning, 102-94. Rockets forward Tracy McGrady has been sidelined since Tuesday because of back spasms.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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