Most players drafted late in the first round of the draft would kill for Jordan Farmar’s career to date. He won two championships and played in three NBA Finals as a key contributor, for the league’s marquee franchise. All before the age of 23.
To top it off, he was coached by Phil Jackson and trusted by Kobe Bryant.Even better for Farmar, he seemed destined to eventually take over as the starter for an aging, declining Derek Fisher. There was one problem, however, its not what Farmar wanted or expected for himself.
Farmar was a McDonald’s All American in high school, was named National Freshman of the Year and 1st Team All Pac 10 as a sophmore. He led UCLA to two Final Fours. He left for the draft because he thought he was a star. He fell to 26th in a 2006 draft that saw Rajon Rondo taken at 21 and Kyle Lowry at 24.
With the Lakers, all of his positive qualities were readily apparent, he was confident, competitive, very athletic, and a good shooter. You could see his potential. In the Triangle offense under Phil Jackson, the point guard was a glorified spot up shooter.It was a poor fit for both Farmar’s game and temperament. His game is predicated on speed and quickness, he wanted to get out and run. With a loaded veteran roster, Farmar was only going to be a cog in the wheel. He wanted to be a starter and more importantly wanted to play a style that suited him better. It was at this point his Lakers’ tenure began to break down.
While he played well for stretches, most noticeably in 2007-2008 when he averaged 9.2 points and split time with Fisher. Although he matched Fisher’s production, his inconsistent decision making and poor individual defense caused to Lakers to look for other options. Jackson liked bigger guards in general and first Javaris Crittenton and then Shannon Brown, were brought in to compete with Farmar for the backup spot.
Farmar’s attitude started to become an issue as his individual career started to decline while his team was winning championships. By 2010, Shannon Brown had surpassed him as the Lakers young guard of choice. When his contract was up, Farmar spoke openly of wanting to go somewhere to expand his game, start, make more money and play a more open style.
He earned a significant pay increase as a free agent, but he was surprised that there was a small market for him as starting point guard, with only Indianapolis even considering the idea. The Pacers ultimately traded for George Hill. Farmar was then in the awkward position of accepting a back up role behind Devin Harris, a solid former all star at the time. On the surface, he miscalculated. In a clear slap, the Lakers signed Steve Blake to the exact money Farmar recieved from New Jersey.
Ironically, Farmar’s time in New Jersey was invaluable to his career and provided him with the foundation to become the player he always wanted to be. With Avery Johnson as coach, a former point guard, Farmar was given a leadership role. His 2 rings gave him clout a struggling franchise found useful. Johnson’s system was fast paced and pick and roll heavy.He got major crunch minutes for the first time in his career as the Nets played Deron Williams (traded to New Jersey midsseason) as the two guard for 26% of his minutes during the 2010-2011 season and 19% of his minutes during the 2011-2012 season. In addition, Farmar started 18 games that season and looked the part of an above average starting point guard. The following season, he had his best year, shooting 44% from 3 and had career highs in scoring and field goal percentage. At age 25, it seemed inevitable he would get his own team.
A massive Nets trade with the Hawks for Joe Johnson derailed his NBA momentum. The Hawks were in full salary dump mode and already had their point guard of the future in Jeff Teague, and received Devin Harris in a trade for Marvin Williams. In a whirlwind, Farmar went from a great situation to being bought out of his contract and without a team. He rebounded with a 3 year, 15 million contract with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Pro League. Yet again a questionable move turned into a blessing in disguise.
With Anadolu Efes, Jordan Farmar was the unquestioned star player. He ran a pick and roll offense and improved as a passer / scorer to such an extent he was a strong MVP candidate for Euroleague. He had been humbled as a player, which he needed. He improved his skill playing in different systems, and he honed his leadership.
He was finally in a good place, but he always had a goal in mind, to thrive in the NBA. In the right situation, he was ready to return. The Lakers and Farmar made up and realized he should have never left.
Mike D’Antoni is the perfect coach for him. D’Antoni’s system is the best match for his skillset, and he’s played like it all season. He gets his teammates involved with great looks, is able to penetrate the defense and has shot the three well. With the injuries to Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the path is clear to take ownership of the Lakers starting point guard position. His play this year has been stellar.
Skeptics scoff at the idea that Farmar is capable of being an above average NBA starter. He is only playing 20 minutes a night, but is averaging more points than Ricky Rubio and Mario Chalmers. He has the same assist total as Jose Calderon. His per 36 minute production (16 ppg, 8.0 assists) is better than Deron Williams’. Those numbers would place him in the top 12-15 players at his position.
As if on cue and starting for just the second time this season and with one game under his belt since returning from injury, Farmar poured in 16 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in 31 minutes. He also forced Trey Burke into 7 turnovers.
Traditionally NBA point guards take a few years into their career to become full time starters. It took Steve Nash 4 seasons,Sam Cassell 4 seasons, Kyle Lowry 4 seasons, and Derek Fisher 6 seasons. Farmar is 27 and just entering his prime. He can become an elite player with this coach and system. His biggest problem over his career has been the inability to get major minutes because of inconsistency. He now has that chance with the team that believes in him most.The Lakers fan base is invested in him emotionally. Now its time to prove us right.