Rest time is over and big tests loom

The Lakers practiced Thursday, the better to prepare for an upcoming stretch of 14 games in 26 days.

In other words, break time’s over.

Tonight’s game against Utah will be only their second in eight days, a quirk in the schedule that allowed them to savor their Christmas Day victory over the Boston Celtics, among other things.

But they’ll have tests against some of the NBA’s best over the next few weeks, including home games against New Orleans, Cleveland and Orlando, plus a mid-month trip to Houston and San Antonio.

It won’t necessarily be an easy month, though the Lakers remain stacked with talent, perhaps the main indicator of success during concentrated parts of the schedule.

“We have a deep-enough team that we can go through stretches like that without struggling physically,” Pau Gasol said. “It’s just a matter of playing and coming out hard every game so we can maybe get a rest in the fourth quarters when we’re supposed to.”


Many eyes will be on Derek Fisher, who has turned back the clock at age 34, sopping up the minutes normally taken by Jordan Farmar.

Fisher had averaged 39 minutes in four games without Farmar before coasting to a 19-point effort in only 25 minutes against Golden State on Sunday.

“He’s doing well,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “In fact, he wanted to stay on the [practice] floor today instead of coming off. I wanted him to come off a little bit. He wanted to stay out there.”

The Lakers won’t be pressed to find another back-up point guard if Fisher continues to play well and Sasha Vujacic produces the way he did against Golden State.

Vujacic had 17 points and six assists in 31 minutes, all of which were season highs. He also made four of seven three-point attempts against the Warriors, who, granted, don’t play a lot of defense.

“Sasha wants to play that position, and we’re hoping that he steps up there and plays it right,” Jackson said. “A lot of it has to do with not just getting assists, but setting the table for the rest of the team.”


Farmar update

Farmar has begun his rehabilitation from knee surgery, though he isn’t expected back until after the All-Star game, which will take place Feb. 15.

“The therapist is going to clear me to go when I’m ready,” Farmar said. “Right after the All-Star break would be nice.”

The Lakers’ first game after the All-Star break is Feb. 17 against Atlanta, meaning Farmar would sit out 22 more games if he returns in time to play against the Hawks.

Farmar, who had torn cartilage in his left knee, planned to begin exercise therapy in a swimming pool next week. He watched Thursday’s practice from the sideline and had only a few small bandages on the knee.

“It feels really good, not a lot of pain,” Farmar said. “I just need to get my quad stronger and my muscles firing again . . . and slowly and surely get back into it.”