Can Jordan Farmar Save the LA Lakers' Point Guard Position?

Howard RubenContributor INovember 23, 2013

Jordan Farmar has been high energy, all-out hustle from day one with the Lakers.
Jordan Farmar has been high energy, all-out hustle from day one with the Lakers.Glenn James/Getty Images

Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles native, UCLA alumnus and holder of two NBA World Championship rings with the L.A. Lakers, is back where it all started with a golden opportunity to lock down a long-term spot as the team's No. 1 point guard.

It's quite possible that one of the reasons Farmar left millions (he signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal in 2012 to play in the Turkish Basketball League) on the table in Turkey after one season to return home and suit up for his beloved Lakers is because he knows Steve Nash is not the Nash of old and may be on his last NBA legs.

Farmar may also have seen an opportunity to supplant the team's current starting point guard, Steve Blake, who will turn 34 in February.

And that could happen down the road, as Blake is a free agent next summer and may go elsewhere. In fact, Blake is coveted by a lot of NBA general managers and could fetch decent assets were the Lakers to move him before the end of this season.

Jordan Farmar and Kobe Bryant could become Lakers' new starting backcourt.
Jordan Farmar and Kobe Bryant could become Lakers' new starting backcourt.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Upon signing a minimum deal with the Lakers last July, Farmar told reporter Dave McMenamin:

"They (Lakers) knew about my deal overseas and really didn't push it earlier because they didn't think I'd be willing to give up that guaranteed money I had over there. I wanted to be back in the NBA, but more importantly, back with the Lakers. This is the only situation I would have taken a minimum deal with."

Regardless of what Nash and his camp are saying about his relentless efforts to get back on the court, it doesn't look good for the soon-to-be 40-year-old former league MVP who is dealing with nerve damage suffered last season when he broke his leg.

Recent reports have Nash out of the lineup for at least another 10 days, while some reports claim he is pondering early retirement.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni tried to squelch those rumors at practice this week, telling ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne:

"He's (Nash) 39, almost 40 years old. I think he's looking at, 'What am I going to do when I'm 50?' But no [he's not thinking of retiring]. Now, whether he can get over this, we'll see. We think he can. We hope he can. But there's no talk of him sitting over there eating bon bons the rest of the way. No."

The Steves—Nash and Blake: Both could be gone by season's end.
The Steves—Nash and Blake: Both could be gone by season's end.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

With Nash gone, Farmar has moved from third to second on the point guard depth chart. His early-season play has been sporadic, and he's appeared tight at times, turning the ball over a career-worst 2.6 times per 19 minutes. Farmar is hitting just 37 percent of his attempts from the floor, including 28 percent from downtown.

On the positive side, Farmar has been aggressive and high-energy when running the offense. He's dishing out close to five assists and pulling down over three rebounds in just those 19 minutes. The desire is clearly there, and the shots will start to fall once he relaxes and tries not to do too much.

Conversely, Blake has been on fire of late. The 6"3", 10th-year PG has taken control of the team's offense and appears much more confident in this role than at any time during his four years with the Lakers.

Heading into Friday night's game at home against Golden State, Blake was averaging 46 percent from beyond the arc and even had a last-second, game-winning three-pointer at Houston to celebrate about. Blake is also averaging over seven assists per game, including 16 dimes in last Sunday's win over Detroit.

Assuming that Nash is ever closer to retirement and Blake is auditioning for one final contract next summer or a trade this winter, Farmar finds himself in an enviable position. He turns 27 next week and is just entering the prime of his NBA career.

A backcourt of Farmar and Kobe Bryant would allow the Lakers to concentrate on improving the roster with young, long, athletic wings and post players via a strong draft next summer and a stellar free-agency class.

And though Farmar's shot hasn't been going in, he's being more aggressive than ever trying to make good things happen. He currently projects out to seven rebounds and nine assists per 40 minutes of action.

Farmar says that his time overseas playing in Turkey really helped him become more of a leader. There's an air of confidence in those abilities that wasn't there in 2009 and 2010 when he was a bench player for two consecutive Lakers championship teams.

About that experience in Turkey, where he averaged 13.8 points and 3.9 assists in 29 games for Anadolu Efes, Farmar told Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin:

It was the first time in my professional career where I got to carry a team. I was taking and making big shots. I was at the free throw line at the end of games. I was responsible for how we were going to perform as a team because I had a lot of the load.

I never had that as a professional yet. Just going through that, I think gave me a lot more opportunity to see what works, to learn my game, to just figure myself out as a player and a person.

Farmar was so excited to sign a one-year, $1.1 million deal to return home that he went out and helped recruit Nick Young, a former rival at USC and basketball friend during their L.A. high school days.

Said Farmar (via Los Angeles Times and Eric Pincus):

I told him it's special to be a Laker and, as kids from L.A., we have an opportunity to do some big things this year and be part of the group that helps restore things.

The opportunity for a long tenure as starting point guard for his Los Angeles Lakers is right there for Jordan Farmar's taking.

He knows he has one season to prove he deserves it.