LOS ANGELES--After he had been shipped out of Phoenix and waived by Washington, while he was toiling in the Development League, feasting on opposing guards in a way he hadn't since his days at North Carolina, Kendall Marshall made a list.
It was a list of the things that drove him to get back to the NBA, a little more than a year after being selected in the lottery by the Suns.
It started off like this: "They say you can't shoot, they say you're too slow, they say you can't defend," Marshall said.
After Friday, he can go back and add some check marks.
Marshall, the Lakers sixth starting point guard through 33 games, tallied career highs in nearly every statistical category, helping the Lakers snap a six-game losing streak with a 110-99 win over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
"He just played the way you're supposed to play point guard," Coach Mike D'Antoni said, gushing.
Two weeks after being called up from the Delaware 87ers, Marshall became a star.
"Things have happened kind of fast," Marshall said. "I'm still humbled by the situation."
In just his fourth career start, Marshall scored 20 points, tallied 15 assists and 6 rebounds. His 3-pointer with 45 seconds left pushed the Lakers lead to eight in a game they previously led by 21.
As Marshall restored order to a position ravaged by injuries to every other able body, Pau Gasol gave one of his best performances of the season. The center flirted with his own triple-double, finishing with 23 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks.
The Lakers were in peril of dropping their fourth straight game to teams expected to finish at the top of the lottery, leading only 94-90 with 2:07 remaining. But Jodie Meeks, who finished with 16 points, buried a 3-pointer to settle things down. Then, out of a timeout in the final minutes, Marshall made his biggest shot of the night.
"I felt like that put the pin in the coffin," he said. "It was kind of a relief."
With Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar all weeks away from returning, Marshall should get plenty of chances to back up the performance. It brings to mind another fill-in point guard who led a D'Antoni team: Jeremy Lin, especially after Marshall's Lakers debut in which he committed four turnovers in six minutes on Dec. 20.
"Jeremy Lin did the exact same thing (in New York)," D'Antoni said. "First game in Boston went out and was awful. And I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh.' Then obviously it happened to him. It does happen to guys."
February will be a big month for the Lakers.
Each of the five injured players are either on schedule to return by the first of the month or hopes to.
"They'll probably drive a bus up and let everybody off," D'Antoni said, laughing.
But the reality is, if the Lakers have any hope of the playoffs or emerging from a season that has so-far been nothing short of catastrophic, they might be grasping at straws. Friday saw their 18th different starting lineup and another new point guard.
But Blake and Kobe Bryant are both expected to be re-evaluated in three weeks; Farmar is out an expected four weeks; Nash will go to Vancouver, B.C., for personal training while the Lakers are on a seven-game trip, and is eyeing a return a week later -- in the first week of February.
Only Xavier Henry, who is out with a bone bruise, is expected to come back sooner. He will be re-evaluated in about a week.
The test, D'Antoni said, will come over the next month to see "if we can stay within striking distance to at least get us a chance going down the stretch to try to salvage the season."
Addressing reporters following Friday's shootaround, Nash said he had hoped to play amid that Lakers' big trip at the end of the month, but was talked away from that plan by the training staff.
"I get these ideas in my head," Nash said, "and at some point I have to also realize to do the safest thing, the best possible opportunity to play basketball again. Rather than letting my angst get the better of me and jumping back in there."
In the two months since he first went out with nerve root irritation in his back, Nash has consistently pushed back his timeline.
"If it doesn't work this time," he said, "I really put the season in jeopardy and I'm really kind of back to square one."
That could be the case for any of the Lakers who are out. No one is sure where Bryant will be in terms of his conditioning after missing at least six weeks with a broken lateral tibial plateau in his left knee.
But the Lakers continue to rest most of their hope on the former league Most Valuable Player's ability to be effective when he returns from his second major injury in nine months.
"We're trying to stay close to .500 until he gets back," D'Antoni said. "We did it the first time, we got ourselves in a hole now, we're going to have to dig ourselves out, and try to get there."
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