Remember when Jordan Farmar was universally considered to be the Lakers' up-and-coming, very promising point guard of the future? It wasn't that long ago – just a few months, actually. For Farmar, it must feel like a lifetime ago.
In December, Farmar underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. In January, he made his return from surgery — a whole month earlier than expected. Since, he has struggled, seemingly making more mistakes on the court than valuable plays, and nowhere near his former self. Some have blamed the early return; others have simply scratched their heads in bewilderment. But few can argue that Jordan Farmar simply hasn't been himself.
As the playoffs drew nearer, Farmar was busy working his way farther and farther down the bench... and then right off it and into Phil Jackson's dog house. In five games against Utah, he played eight combined minutes, split between two games, and did not play (coach's decision) in three.
Many Lakers fans, it seems — including many here at SS&R — have all but given up on Jordan Farmar. He has been too big a disappointment this year, and Shannon Brown has been good enough to relieve any felt need for Farmar on the part of the fans. When Brown continued to deliver at a high level against Utah, as he had begun to at the end of the regualr season, many were convinced that the "future Lakers point guard" torch had been officially passed. The decision was made, the discussion over.
I, for one, was never convinced.
Even those not yet quite ready to write Farmar off seemed more focused on the Lakers' need for him in the short term, rather than any faith in him for the long term. There would come a time, they pointed out, that the Lakers would need Jordan Farmar, and it would benefit us for him to be at least decently productive.
As we learned last night, in the Lakers Game 3 win over the Rockets in Houston, they were right about that. Aaron Brooks had been too quick for Fisher, and his constant penetration into the paint had given the Lakers fits. Even when he wasn't scoring, his penetration opened the game up for his Rockets teammates. Only Farmar had the speed to keep up with Brooks.
With Fisher suspended in Game 3 for a Flagrant II foul on the much larger Luis Scola, Farmar had a chance to prove that his skills were exactly what the Lakers needed. Boy, did he ever. He tallied 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals, and a block. His only turnover came off a jump ball that the Rockets won. Meanwhile, he made Brooks a non-factor, limiting him to seven points, three rebounds, and only one assist, while forcing him into three turnovers and drawing three of Brooks' five fouls. In fact, he played Brooks so well that I forgot the Rockets' guard was on the floor for entire chunks of the game — he was that irrelevant.
For many Lakers fans, Farmar's Game 3 performance was a pleasant surprise. I think it was justt pleasant.
Remember, this is the guy who showed up at the Lakers' training facility shortly after the Lakers selected a young point guard, Javaris Crittenton, in the 2007 draft. That was at 9:00 p.m. on an off-season night. To say the guy is up for the challenge is an understatement. While many saw Shannon Brown leap frogging Jordan Farmar in the rotation as Farmar's rotational epitaph, I didn't think Farmar had had his last say yet.
Sure enough, Farmar seems to have accepted the challenge. He understands that his job is not secure, and that he is going to have to earn it. As we have seen in the past, he seems to be at his best when under that kind of internal competitive pressure.
Along the way, Farmar has had to learn some lessons. As quoted in the LA Times, Coach Phil Jackson elaborated, hinting at some of the problems he has had with Farmar:
"I can only hope that he's learned that minutes are not something that are given to you, they're something that you earn," Jackson said. "With the amount of talent that he has around him, he's got to produce. ... I think that's one of the things that he's learned. He's been coming in and shooting, he's been playing hard and doing all the right things."
If Farmar has indeed learned these lessons, his future may yet look bright with the Lakers. If he plays on a regular basis with the kind of heart and passion he showed last night, he will quickly regain his place as a fan favorite. And if Game 3 was any indication of what is to come in the next few weeks, then the Lakers are looking loaded at the point, able to choose between the wily veteran leader (Fisher), the taller, super-athletic defender (Brown), and the confident speed demon (Farmar).
And in the long run, they could have two potential up-and-coming point guards of the future. As observers of Jordan Farmar understand, there's nothing wrong with a little in-house competition.
Welcome back, Jordan. We hope you're here to stay.