One was clinging to a spot in the rotation in his final days as a Clipper, the other wasn’t playing at all.
Lance Stephenson and Jordan Farmar returned to Staples Center on Tuesday night for the first time since those dark days with a different standing in the basketball world. They’re now propping up what’s left of the Memphis Grizzlies as they try to gird their team for a playoff push.
Farmar started at point guard against the Clippers because regular starter Mike Conley is out for the season with Achilles’ tendinitis. Stephenson was one of the first players off the bench and quickly made a three-pointer, on the way to 11 points
As recently as a month ago, Farmar had expected to be back at Staples Center this week for the final game of former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant.
“I was looking forward to being there,” Farmar said at the Grizzlies’ shoot-around, “but I have a job now.”
Farmar had been released by the Israeli professional team Maccabi Tel Aviv when Memphis signed him to a 10-day contract late last month before securing him for the rest of the season. He had four points and x two assists against the Clippers.
Stephenson has been a part-time starter and full-fledged member of the NBA’s largest active Clippers alumni base. Matt Barnes and Zach Randolph also play for the Grizzlies and Ryan Hollins did as well before being waived last week.
There are so many former Clippers in Memphis that two were once traded for one another, with the Clippers acquiring Stephenson in June as part of a deal that allowed Barnes to land with the Grizzlies after a momentary stopover in Charlotte.
“We talk about it all the time,” Stephenson said. “We laugh about it, but we’ve moved on from that.”
Neither Stephenson nor Farmar seemed to hold a grudge over the way things ended with the Clippers. Stephenson was traded in February along with a first-round draft pick for Jeff Green, largely because he wasn’t a good fit. Farmar was waived in January 2015 after a forgettable half-season in which he put up his worst numbers since he was a rookie.
“It was a little awkward, but it’s part of the business sometimes,” Farmar said. “They’ve moved on, I’ve moved on, no point in looking back at it.”
Stephenson credited the Clippers with helping him land in a situation where he has a bigger role. The Grizzlies need all the help they can get with center Marc Gasol (broken foot), forward Brandan Wright (sprained knee) and guard Jordan Adams (knee surgery) out for the playoffs in addition to Conley.
Health, not revenge, is at the forefront of the Grizzlies’ minds as they prepare for the postseason.
“We’re trying to get healthy as much as we can and just get to playing good basketball,” Farmar said. “We’ve lost a few really close games in the past week but through all the adversity we’ve been going through as an organization, we’ve still been able to be really competitive and we need to turn those competitive games into wins.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch