Words can't express how I feel right now. I can't think of a better situation than this. It's a perfect situation.
Jordan Farmar, after being drafted by the Lakers
When Jordan Farmar was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006, he was ecstatic. He was a 19 year old kid who loved his family, and being drafted by his hometown team would allow him to continue living the dream. After playing high school ball at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Farmar chose to stay close to home and play for UCLA at the collegiate level, but when you get to the pros, you don't have that choice. You play for the team that drafts you, whether it's near the beaches of sunny California or the frozen tundra of Minnesota. It's the luck of the draw, for both the team and the player. When Jordan Farmar was drafted, he couldn't imagine being more lucky.
But Jordan was wrong. Though the Lakers offered him the opportunity to continue playing close to home, his situation was hardly perfect. Jordan Farmar was a short, quick point guard with above average athleticism, a decent shooting stroke and below average defensive instincts. In other words, Farmar was a prototypical point guard with some defensive limitations. Problem was, Farmar's new head coach did not want a prototypical point guard with defensive limitations. He wanted the exact opposite of that.
I don't recall there ever being any open hostility between Farmar and Phil Jackson ... it's just that neither one offered the other what they craved. Phil Jackson's Triangle offense requires little of the traditional point guard skill set that Farmar brought to the table, and as such, he preferred "point guards" who were big, strong, and able defenders. Farmar was none of those things. It's like if Jackson decided he needed a rake to do some yard work, but Mitch Kupchak bought him a shovel instead. That's not to criticize Mitch for picking Farmar in the draft, because sometimes when it's your turn to choose, there are no rakes left. Just a really nice shovel, nice enough for you to think "Maybe we can make the shovel work."
Both Jackson and Farmar tried to do just that. Farmar tried to make himself into a rake, tried to play point guard the way Jackson wanted him to, limiting his penetration attempts and orchestrating the Triangle. And Jackson played Farmar quite a bit, right from the start. Jordan averaged 15 minutes a game as a 19 year old rookie, despite Jackson being known for keeping rookies buried on the end of the bench. But it was never an ideal situation. Farmar wanted to expand his game and play the way he wanted to play, and that just didn't jive with life under Phil Jackson and the Triangle offense. So it was no surprise that when Farmar's rookie deal expired in 2010, he decided to sign with the New Jersey Nets and the Lakers didn't put up much of a fight.
Since then, Farmar's life has taken quite a few turns. Things didn't work out any better for him in New Jersey, where he played poorly in his first season and was limited by injury in his second. He was traded to Atlanta as a make-weight in the Joe Johnson trade, waived by the Hawks, and that's how Farmar, one of only two Jewish players in the NBA, ended up plying his trade in Israel for a year with Maccabi Tel Aviv. The following season, he signed a large three year contract to play in Turkey, but only a year in, he decided he wanted to come back to the States. And now, he's back in L.A., leaving quite a bit of money on the table to come back to the Lakers.
And now, it is perfect. Phil Jackson is gone. The Triangle is gone. Now, the team is run by Mike D'Antoni, a coach who preaches an offensive style that is right up Farmar's alley. You want somebody to push the pace? Farmar is your man. You want a point guard to operate primarily out of the pick and roll in the half court set? That's exactly what Farmar wants to do. He's hardly a perfect player, and will probably never ascend any higher than solid back up, but Farmar is finally in the best possible position to succeed. His strengths finally match up with his team's preferences.
I, for one, am excited to see what he can do, because Jordan has always had the raw skills to be a very solid basketball player. People always forget about him, probably because he shared the back court with two of the best athletes in the entire NBA (Kobe, obviously, and Shannon Brown, who is nowhere near as refined as Kobe, but perhaps more spectacular as a raw athlete). But Farmar is no athletic slouch. Dude is fast, and dude can jump, and he's pretty damn good at doing both of those things at the same time. Lest we forget ...
We're talking about a guy who had the highest vertical (42 inches) of any player at the pre-draft combine in 2006. We're talking about a guy who could compete for the title of "Fastest Laker of the last 20 years" with Ramon Sessions and Nick Van Exel. And it's not like those are his only skills, either. He's got a decent outside shot, decent enough that you can't just play off of him to cut off his penetration. He's got decent vision, decent enough to post an average Assist % in the 30's in his two non-Triangle years. His shot left him completely his first year in New Jersey, but in his second year, he was working on per-36 minute averages of 18 points and 6 assists. He's got the raw talent, and he's got a decent, though unspectacular, skill-set. Now, he finally has the perfect place to put it all together, a place that wants what he can provide.
It's the same place he was so happy to be all those years ago, back when he was young and foolish. In hindsight, I think Jordan Farmar would acknowledge that the Lakers were hardly a perfect situation for him back in 2006. But the calendar reads 2013 these days, and right now, in this moment, his out-dated quote couldn't be more apt.
Welcome home, Jordan. Welcome home.