Jordan Farmar was full of hope when he returned full circle to the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Unfortunately, he has missed as many games as he has played—the victim of a pervasive injury bug that has touched virtually the entire team.
He has played well during his time on the floor, averaging 10.4 points and 4.7 assists per game off the bench, appearing in 36 of 72 games to date. He has also shot a lights-out 45.7 percent from behind the arc. Two hamstring tears and a strained right groin, however, have made it hard to find a sense of consistency.
How good could Farmar be for the Lakers? It’s an open-ended question—he hasn’t played since March 14, and there are just 10 games left on the schedule. Plus, his contractual future is up in the air.
Like most of his teammates, Farmar will soon be an unrestricted free agent. He’s hoping to return to the floor as early as this coming week, which would allow him at least a handful of games before this snakebitten season is over.
As Dave McMenamin from ESPN Los Angeles points out, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has been impressed with Farmar’s game, despite the injuries:
"The best thing he does, he can get a shot any time he wants it and he can shoot it. That's his best part of his game and the rest of it is coming on. I thought he defended well. He's smart and there's no reason why he's not a good guard in this league."
Besides getting his shot on the offensive end, Farmar’s also a willing defender, able to snake the ball from opposing guards and push it up the court in transition, either dishing off or using a hesitation move before accelerating to the hoop for one of his patented up-and-under layups.
A standout point guard at Taft High School and UCLA, the L.A. native was drafted by the Lakers in 2006 and spent four seasons in purple and gold, mostly coming off the bench and providing bursts of energy and scoring within the confines of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. The result was two championship rings and the desire to spread his wings—he left during free agency and joined the New Jersey Nets.
Farmar also played overseas, for Maccabi Tel Aviv during the 2011 NBA lockout, and most recently, with Anadolu Efes for the 2012-13 season. This past summer, he left at least $10 million on the table, according to Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times, when he agreed to be bought out of his contract by the Lakers.
His salary for a one-year deal in Los Angeles is just $884,293, according to Sham Sports. Still, it allowed him to return to his home town, and hopefully, a revived NBA career.
Per Bresnahan, Farmar was enthused at the prospect of playing in a free-flowing system:
"I feel I'm a much better basketball player now than I was my first free agency. Coming in and being young, I dream of playing in a Mike D'Antoni system, somewhere you can just be free and push the ball and make a lot of plays. I think it will be a lot of fun."
And then came a nightmare of a season, the likes of which the Lakers haven’t seen in generations. If there’s any consolation, the team’s in good position for a prime lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
Of course, that could mean landing the point guard of the future in Dante Exum. Plus, management has a multiyear unguaranteed contract with Kendall Marshall—plucked from D-League obscurity during the height of the team’s injury woes.
Marshall has already played substantially more minutes than Farmar this season and is averaging almost twice as many assists, at 8.9 per game.
The Lakers also have Steve Nash for one more season, and while the future Hall of Famer is a shell of his former self, he’s still managed to work his way back from injury and has, in fact, been logging game time recently while Farmar watches in street clothes.
Where does this leave a guy who came back for the best of reasons? Will he get another shot next year, and if so, will there be any available playing time?
Now 27 years old, Farmar has a sense of patience that was lacking during his early years in Los Angeles. He returned knowing full well that he could be the third point guard in the rotation. He would probably accept a similar role for next season.
And the Lakers should jump on the chance to bring him back.
Farmar exudes a sense of poise and purpose when playing—a true floor general in the best sense of the word. He’s a more complete player than during his championship years, and that’s just in limited game action.
He needs to stay healthy of course, something easier said than done. Back-to-back hamstring tears are not what you want with a player whose calling card is shifting gears.
How good can Farmar be with the Lakers? As a minimum salary backup point guard on one of the worst teams in the league, he can be plenty good. And as he’s proved in the past, he can also earn meaningful minutes on a championship team.
First things first, however—namely the tail end of one of the strangest seasons in Lakers history. Hopefully Farmar can get back on the floor and finish with a flourish, before heading into the long free-agency summer.