Like most of his teammates, Jordan Farmar had a better-than-average year on a worse-than-average team. And also like most of them, he spent too much time on the injured list.
During a season filled with oddities for the Los Angeles Lakers—including the worst loss record in franchise history—it’s hard to truly gauge just how good Farmar could be for the team.
If in fact it even brings him back. Like most other Lakers, he’s a free agent once again.
Yet, for a team awash in question marks, it is worth posing one more—could this be its point guard of the future?
It’s not as crazy as you may think, not in an era of a collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult for any team to afford one true superstar, much less two.
And at any rate, there aren’t enough stars in the league for every team. That’s just how it is.
Dante Exum could possibly be the point guard of the future for the Lakers except it’s highly unlikely he’ll still be on the board when it comes time for management to make its draft-night pick.
Assuming the Australian wonderkid goes elsewhere, then what? Point guard Marcus Smart perhaps? But what if the Lakers draft a frontcourt player instead?
Steve Nash and the word “future” don’t go hand-in-hand, and Kendall Marshall showed he’s better than a fluke but not a long term starter—not with that cranky, old-fashioned set shot of his.
There will be free agents like Kyle Lowry, but a hot season with the Toronto Raptors may have boosted his salary potential to a place where Los Angeles just won’t go.
And then there’s Farmar—a perennial backup in the league but nonetheless a backup with a couple NBA championship rings. And, he had an active part in those title runs—playing double minutes and making a difference. The team’s No. 26 pick in 2006 took part in 301 regular-season games plus 69 playoff appearances during his initial four-year term with the Lakers.
And then he left, wanting to escape the backup role, looking for something outside of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, hoping to spread his wings.
Farmar returned last summer after spending two seasons with the New Jersey Nets and two overseas with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Anadolu Efes.
Per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers' free agent point guard displayed a confident but realistic view on what he brings to the table during this season’s exit interview:
I'm 27 years old but I have eight years' worth of experience and a couple of championships and things that a lot of people can't offer. I feel I can really help a good team. I know this organization is going to be heading in that direction in the very near future.
But there are also health issues—Farmar averaged 10 points and five assists this season but missed 41 games with hamstring tears and a groin pull.
Perhaps yoga holds the key.
Say what? Again, from the L.A. Times' article: "I will definitely stay more dedicated to my yoga. I did yoga my whole career, up until this year. It's something that I am just really passionate about and I believe in."
For those who remember Farmar’s first incarnation with the Purple and Gold, he was an avid practitioner of the cross-legged art, and it seemed to pay off—his only serious injury was a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee that required surgery during the 2008-09 season. He returned a month later and played the rest of the season, including a run to a championship.
An L.A. native, Farmar set a record at powerhouse Taft High with 54 points in a single game and was a McDonald’s All-American before enrolling at UCLA where he was the starting point guard and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
He led the Bruins to the National Championship Game his sophomore season (they lost to the Florida Gators) before declaring for the draft and blowing everyone away at the combine with a 42” vertical leap.
And the rest is a circuitous history.
The hometown kid returned and is now married to professional soccer player Jill Oakes. They have two young daughters—Phoenix and Kali Isabelle.
Farmar has matured—he says and does all the right things. And, he still has explosive speed, great ball-handling skills and a million little tricks of the point guard trade.
Farmar has his weaknesses as well. There are reasons he’ll never be a max-contract player—he’s lacking in lateral quickness, doesn’t have a huge wingspan and doesn’t have the physical strength of some other guards in the league.
But he’s smart, has great court vision and quick hands. He’s a court general in the truest sense of the word and has no problem calling out teammates for their mistakes or praising them for the right decisions.
He has always had confidence, and that’s a trait that successful point guards in the NBA need.
Is he the first one you think of as a point guard of the future for a proud franchise that has seen better days?
Perhaps not. But he can get the job done if he’s healthy, and wouldn’t it be nice to parcel out all those mega-dollar signs somewhere else—like for Kevin Love for instance?
The Lakers have to make hard choices when it comes to where and how they spend their precious resources—just like every other team. It’s a new day in the Association—the rules encourage a fast pace, outside shooting and rosters built on the backs of minimum-salary deals.
It’s about delivering the biggest bang for shrinking budgets. And the Lakers, coming off an unmitigated train wreck of a season, are coming to grips with this brave new world.
They’ll most likely re-sign Jordan Farmar this summer to a modest contract, and he’ll commute to work from his home in Los Angeles. And in a perfect Lakers story he’ll win another ring before all is said and done.
As he said during his exit interview, “I love Los Angeles, I love this organization and the fans. This is definitely where my heart is at.”
He’s not a guy who will do it on his own, but he could certainly be a part of the future.
Jordan Farmar won’t ever be a superstar, but he could be a solid starting role player for the Lakers for years to come.
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