Jordan Farmar sits in a crowded Lakers’ locker room inside the belly of Barclays Center, Brooklyn, on a cold Thursday night. It must have seemed like old times for the point guard. Sure, Kobe Bryant was nowhere to be found – although, he was in the building somewhere – and this current team that Farmar finds himself on is not quite at the championship-level of the 2010 title winning squad he last played on, but Farmar, a Southern California product, was at home with his new teammates. Nick Young cracking jokes on Jordan Hill, a throng of media waiting for Pau Gasol. Farmar must have missed the NBA camaraderie.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder according to the time-honored saying, for Farmar that certainly rings true.
In his first season back in the league after spending two seasons abroad in Israel and Turkey, along with the previous two in New Jersey with the Nets, Farmar has played with a renewed hunger. He’s averaging 9.7 points and 4.6 assists in 20-minutes a night off the bench for Mike D’Antoni, and has emerged as the leader of the second unit – a guy who can be trusted to run the plays the coach draws up when the starters are taking a breather. The team seems to revolve around Farmar whenever he’s in the game.
“That was my goal coming in here,” says Farmar. “To have that responsibility, to take my abilities and the game I worked so hard to develop, and be a leader out there on the floor. Make sure Nick’s rolling, trying to get X [Xavier Henry] going, get Shawne Williams open looks, and then try to pick my spots to my be aggressive. That’s my job on this team, and I’m just trying to do it.”
It was always strange to see Farmar in team uniform colors other than the purple-and-gold. His stint with New Jersey didn’t garner any playoff success – the Nets were a terrible team that missed the post-season both years – while playing overseas opened Farmar’s eyes. He says it helped him grow as a person, and as a basketball player.
“It was a good experience, on and off the court,” states Farmar. “It helped me mature, helped my game mature. It just helped me overall. I’m glad I did it [but I’m happy to be back. I look forward to contributing a lot more here.”
Farmar left $3 million on the table by coming back to the Lakers on a veterans minimum this season. It’s not about money for Farmar, though. It’s a chance to show that his time away didn’t dull any parts of his NBA game. He’s more rounded in his game now, and he’s using some of the things he learned in Europe with the Lakers.
“My game has grown [and] I’ve grown a little as a man,” asserts Farmar. “I just have different experiences to draw on, now. To be a part of those [Lakers] championship teams, here with the Nets, overseas [as well]. It all helped shaped the player I am now.
“In general, they [Euro leagues] play hard every night. Overseas is like life-or-death every night, so it’s a little bit different to working your way through an 82-game season when every game has a lot of implications.”
The Lakers are still waiting on the return – whenever that may be – of Kobe Bryant from his torn Achilles, and have admirably kept their record above .500 in his absence, but rest assured that they will be a much tougher squad to beat if Farmar continues his impressive start to the season.
“[I just] want to continue to get better every day, and contribute every time I’m given an opportunity,” says Farmar. “I want to make a difference every time I step on the floor. Make the other team have to worry about me, and do my job to help make my teammates’ jobs easier.”
Play like that also reminds the Lakers of what they missed while he was gone.