It’s now official: Jordan Farmar is no longer a Laker but instead is a member of the New Jersey Nets. Last night he inked a 3 year/$12 million dollar contract to play point guard with the team in Jersey. So, what looked to be a sure bet after his exit interview and at the beginning of free agency has now come to fruition, so this should be of little surprise to Lakers fans. Personally, I wish Farmar nothing but the best. Yes, I’ve been hard on Farmar over his career (more on that later) but he was a key contributor to the Lakers three consecutive trips to the Finals and the two championships they’ve won in the past two seasons. Serving as the back up PG and the first guard off the bench nearly every night, Farmar may not have been the most dependable player but he played hard and did have a knack of hitting key shots when the Lakers needed them. So, in a way, I’ll miss him. I just won’t miss him a lot.
Because when it comes right down to it, Jordan Farmar wasn’t a player that had a long term future with the Lakers. While the Triangle is an offense that nearly any player can adapt to – if you can’t shoot, you can slash; if you’re not a good ball handler, you can spot up; etc – Farmar was always a reluctant participant in the Lakers’ sets often casting himself as a floor general in a system that did not require it. Farmar seems to see himself as a director of the action; as a guard that operates best with the ball in his hands where he can call out the sets and improvise off the dribble to get himself or his teammates a shot. And the offense he found himself in just wasn’t that type of scheme. Plus, when you compound that with the Lakers also employing Kobe, Pau, Fisher, and Odom, it’s not like Farmar was ever going to find a role where he was the main player with the ball in his hands even when the offense calls for isolation sets or pick and rolls.
The thing is, even though Farmar likely saw himself as more, he had the requisite skill to really excel as a support player in the Triangle. Farmar is a good enough shooter from both the mid-range and the three point line (for players that had more than 17 attempts, he actually led the Lakers in 3pt FG% at 37.6% this past season) to be a threat off the ball. He’s a very good ball handler and has shown the ability to be a good decision maker by making the proper reads within the offense. He’s an explosive driver that can finish at the rim in the half court and in transition – traits that served him well when up against the shot clock or in the P&R sets that are built into the Triangle. And he also had moxie; a confidence to him that allowed him to play fearlessly in games where the stakes were high. Granted, this didn’t always lead to the best results, but he’s played well in some big games and hit some big shots in the the OKC series and against Phoenix in the WCF in this years’ playoffs. He also made some key hustle plays in the Finals including a diving grab of a loose ball in game 6 that exemplified the effort the Lakers displayed in forcing a fateful game 7. So when looking at his game, it’s obvious that Farmar could have been a contributing player for the Lakers for years to come had he just been at peace with his role.
But during his tenure with the Lakers, he never fully embraced being that player. And in the end, this is why I’ve been so hard on Farmar and why I was left disappointed on many a night with his performance. Farmar was always a player with the requisite game and the smarts to know what to do and when to do it, but he too often broke away from that role to try and do more. Rather than making the simple pass into the post, he’d call Gasol out to the perimeter so he could run the P&R. Instead of making the next pass in the progression reads of the Triangle, he’d put his head down and try to attack the basket. What was most frustrating was that it was clear that he could play in a manner that was mutually beneficial to him an the team – a perfect example of this was his performance in the 2009 playoffs against Houston when Fisher was suspended – but on too many nights Farmar pushed away from that role like the style he wanted to play and the Triangle offense were two magnets at opposite poles. When you throw in his sometimes commitment to defense where losing track of his man off the ball or his getting beat off the dribble in a manner where his man wasn’t funneled to help defenders was a bit too frequent, my frustration often grew even higher. This all left me with a sense of “he should be better, but he’s just not” and in the end, that’s a tough way of looking at a player night after night.
And now he’s gone. But again, I hope he succeeds in Jersey (and I think he will). He’s seemingly going to a situation where he’ll again be asked to be a back up player, but the isolation and P&R schemes of Avery Johnson will likely suit him better than the constraints of the Triangle. Plus with the Nets, there is no Kobe Bryant to dominate the ball on the wing to the point that Farmar will be a spectator just standing in the corner waiting for the ball to swing back to him. He’ll be able to play with an up an coming big man, so he should still have the relief of having a strong post presence that he can play off of while still being able to create off the dribble for himself or his mates. And while I’m not sure if this is the best career move for Farmar – he’s leaving a defending champion for the team with the worst record in the league last season – I do think this will give him a chance to see if he can indeed flourish in a more traditional system for a point guard. He has the talent, but whether he gets the opportunity he’s been seeking for years remains to be seen. Either way, good luck Jordy. I’ll miss his buzzer beaters at the end of quarters, open court dunks and that swagger that he carried himself with and hope he brings all that and more with him to the Nets.