Heading into the Western Conference Finals against the Suns, I wrote about Jordan Farmar's progression (or lack thereof) since his surprise promotion to starter for the 2007 playoffs against Phoenix. Our conversation for the article reinforced a lot of what we've heard from Farmar over the last couple of seasons. He's not wild about the triangle or his place in a system preventing him from having the ball in his hands for large chunks of possessions. He hasn't been griping to the media, but he's definitely dissatisfied playing off the bench in a limited role. In the meantime, the coaching staff hasn't always been enamored with his play or his attitude.
I've often predicted Jordan's time with the Lakers will have the end date of June 30, 2010 due to mutual disinterest. After Farmar's exit interview, I'm more convinced than ever he'll be with another team next season. The restricted free agent obviously refrained from committing one way or another, but the criteria laid out for a decision presented the odds of returning as fairly small:
"I really want to see what kind of player I can be in this league," explained Farmar. "I know I can do a lot. I know I can lead a team. For me in my career, I've always played at a championship level, so I definitely want to win and that's important to me. But I don't know if I could look back at the end of my career, if I didn't get a chance to see that type of player I can really be. So this free agency is kind of what is it geared for towards for me. I want to check that out and see the situation, whether it be here or elsewhere, where I can really see what I can do."
Well, between the presences of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, Farmar's role in the foreseeable future will only grow so much. Factor in a seemingly good chance Derek Fisher will be re-signed (I've personally never believed otherwise) and he still may not even be able to crack the starting lineup, and next season appears even more a Xerox in the making. Then again, he's a role player with two rings and a shot at more, so there's the trade-off. How do you balance that?
"It's tough," admitted Farmar. "I think for my career, I need to establish myself as somebody who can lead a team and play big minutes and being a lead guard. I think that desire to want to do more comes all the time, especially having won two championships early in my career. I think it's really important. Looking back, I'll really be happy with these championships, but I really want to push myself to the limit. I've always done that, to try to push myself to be better and better."
Farmar's an L.A. native who's played his entire career from the high school-level onward in the City of Angels. Career aspirations understood and appreciated, I wondered if he was nonetheless ambivalent about leaving the only roundball town he knows.
Not so much.
"Outside of the Lakers, I like that idea. I love L.A. I think it's good for somebody to get away sometimes. My friends and family have been great, and they've had a chance to be close and be around this whole experience and learn and grow. I have a family of my own starting, and that's where my heart and my head is. We're gonna be together no matter where we're at. I think that's comfortable for me and us. I have a little one on the way. A lot of good things are going for me. I'm just looking forward to the rest of your life."
Like I said, ain't the signals of a dude with plans to stick around.
Farmar's situation is nothing if not interesting. On one hand, his concern about getting pigeonholed is valid, along with his projection for the ceiling to his role in purple and gold. He's also likely correct about his potential as a better fit elsewhere, and remains a good, quick finisher with underrated hops. On the other hand, I've always felt Farmar isn't quite as good as he thinks he is and I'm not convinced he's the ideal starter for a playoff-caliber team. He's a streaky shooter and while perhaps the result of being limited by the triangle, he's been a fairly inconsistent play-maker. On defense, he's can be a demon jumping the passing lanes, but he's not great on-ball and isn't strong enough to fight through screens. If he's been legitimately robbed of a chance to develop in L.A., he's nonetheless left with a lot of improvements to make.
I also wonder how great a leader Farmar will be, since it's generally a requirement for point guards. Without question, Jordan hasn't received many opportunities outside of the Bench Mob's early days in 2008 - to be fair, he often acquitted himself nicely - but his mindset leaves one hard-pressed to picture him as an extension of a coach's whiteboard. It's been very important for Jordan to play "his way," and a point guard who doesn't wholeheartedly endorse his coach's plan is a huge obstacle. Just ask the Clips and Baron Davis. If Farmar wants the responsibility and the ball in his hands, he'll need to adopt more of a "no questions asked" mindset on his next team. If the hardheadedness resurfaces, he could wind up in the exact same situation, except on a non-contender.
In any event, I'm counting on a "Thank you, Jordan" jumbotron montage at some point next season. Watch Farmar below and tell me if you disagree.