Trudell: Farmar Poised for his Second Lakers Run
During training camp, a bevy of basketball heads connected to the Lakers in some way are watching practice, and among the most common of general opinions to come out of the building thus far has been how well Jordan Farmar’s playing.
His new head coach is among those pleased with what he’s seen.
“I think what he does, you can already see he’s going to be effective this year,” said Mike D’Antoni. “The biggest thing is his toughness. That’s how Steve Blake is. They’re just coming at you. He shoots the ball really well, he’s quick, he’s feisty, he’s got good court vision, so he’s got it all.”
Among the best athletes to ever go through the team’s workout for draft prospects, the now 26-year-old spent his first four seasons in Los Angeles (2006-10), winning two championships as a reserve point guard while playing around 18 minutes per game. The L.A. native and UCLA product spent one full season and one lockout-shortened campaign with the Nets before traveling first to Israel and then to Turkey to lead professional teams of his own.
We caught up with Farmar to discuss his level of excitement to be playing in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, to gauge how he’s developed in the past few years and find out which of his teammates are looking good early in camp:
Below is a transcript of the conversation:
MT: How are you approaching this opportunity to potentially get legit minutes in an increased role under a new coach and style that may well suit your strengths?
Farmar: I’m feeling good. I’m really enjoying this style of play and am excited about what I can do under coach D’Antoni. One thing to keep in mind (when I have the ball) is that we still have a very talented team, with a lot of guys who are established and will be a big part of what we do, so that will dictate the offensive flow. But no doubt I’m excited about running this system.
MT: Rewinding a bit for a moment – after consecutive titles as a backup to Derek Fisher in Phil Jackson’s triangle, you left to try and expand your game. What was your thinking?
Farmar: At that time I was just looking for an opportunity to grow as a player and as a person, and that’s really what I did. I left and I got a chance to do some things outside of the triangle, learn how different coaches coach and how different philosophies are here in the NBA and around the world. That just added to my level of my basketball knowledge, my respect of the game and understanding that there are a lot of different ways to make an impact.
MT: How would you explain your approach to running D’Antoni’s offense?
Farmar: It’s really about knowing yourself and the players that are on the floor with you. Knowing what specific guys like to do and where they can be successful and then staying aggressive to be able to put them in those positions. So if I can make the defense commit to me, then a guard is going to get an open shot. If I can make the interior defense come out to me, a big man is going to get an opportunity. And if I know where guys want to get the ball to succeed the most, I can focus on that.
MT: Something that’s made Steve Nash so great is that you literally can’t go under on screen/roll, or ever leave him alone, because he won’t miss his shot. Of course, he’s good at so many things within this system; how do you see it?
Farmar: It’s everything, but what makes him so great is his efficiency. If you leave him open, he’s knocking it down at a very high percentage. That forces defensive players to overplay him, to overcommit, and he’s such a great passer that he can kill you that way too by making the right play almost every time. That’s why he’s one of the best of all time, and I’m happy to be here with him to try and work with and talk to him as much as I can. Hopefully it can rub off on my game.
MT: I read that you made a joke on media day about being in Nash’s ear so much he’s going to feel like he’s your father?
Farmar: His son follows him around when he works out, and I said I’m going to be the same way. Just be right behind him, asking him questions, asking him what he thinks and how he can help me out. And he’s come up to me more than once saying, ‘Feel free to ask me anything you need,’ or ‘I’m always here to talk to about anything.’ Hopefully I can help him rest a little bit, and he can help me grow; it should be a really good combination.
MT: You’ve now seen most of what there is in the basketball world, but what can Nash specifically help you with?
Farmar: I’ll ask him what he’s looking for in certain scenarios, like if a guy does x to you, what do you do?
MT: What’s an example?
Farmar: It could be anything. It’ll just happen in a scrimmage, and then I’ll ask him on the spot or later. ‘They played you like this, so what was your first read?’ … ‘How did you set yourself up to get space to get that shot off, or that big to commit to you?’
MT: For a guy that’s so instinctual, is Nash always able to explain it?
Farmar: He definitely does a lot on instinct, but he’ll think about it for a second and then explain what his feeling was. He does a good job at that. And I try to do the same, trying to play off instinct and not think too much. It’s key to have a good knowledge of the game, and then just trust yourself to play ball.
MT: It’s almost cliché to wax poetic on how great the attitude is early in training camp of any sport, but guys are really pointing out the differences this year at least compared to last. How do you see it, perhaps in comparison to your last Lakers training camp in 2010?
Farmar: The attitude has been great. Everybody is really focused on the same stuff, and competitive. We’re trying to win every little scrimmage, every little game. There’s been trash talking that carries over to the next day. Everyone is locked in, trying to take advantage of the situation and have fun while doing it.
MT: Especially when Nash is in, D’Antoni said he won’t hesitate using you or Steve Blake at the two. Is there a real difference in your approach should that occur? Other than having to defend a bigger guard and spot up more, does that change your preparation?
Farmar: It’s pretty self-explanatory basketball. It’s not rocket science; it’s not as complex as certain parts of the triangle in terms of having an answer for every little read the defense has. It’s really organic, about having good spacing and trusting each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re on or off the ball, you should still approach it the same way. It’s just basketball, man. They call it ‘Park Method.’ If you’re at the park, just play ball. Dribble hand off, pick for each other, spacing, use each other. Just play.
MT: Nash has discussed some difficulties last year with every player buying into what the coach asked for, with a willingness to run screen/roll a particular issue. That doesn’t appear to be an issue in this camp?
Farmar: No. If you have four guys standing around and one guy not going to roll, there’s no help, there’s no weak side action and it breaks down. But if someone sets a good screen and rolls hard, whether they’re a great player or not, it creates offense for everybody. So it’s just about being committed and doing it. We’re going to stay together. We have a good locker room, and everybody respects one another. I don’t see us getting divided, even if there are some tough stretches. Chemistry is a big, big thing, and they had a very talented team last year, but they couldn’t get on the same page.
MT: Or stay healthy. No doubt. Moving on, have you had a chance to break bread with Kobe yet? I know you were always a big fan in your last run together.
Farmar: Big time. I’m a big time supporter and fan of Kobe’s. When he’s out there, he’s trying to win. He makes no excuses, he plays through injuries, he does whatever he can to win. He’s dedicated his whole life to that, and I respect him to the fullest. We speak every day about life, about everything. His locker is right next to mine. He’s working his butt off every day, excited to get back on the court. It’s great to be back around him.
MT: Finally, Jordan, has anybody stood out to you early in camp with certain guys that you haven’t played with before?
Farmar: Yeah man, I’m having to get used to Wesley (Johnson). He’s really, really long and athletic on defense, and makes some plays that are incredible. He’ll be leaning one way, and still manage to reach back and get a steal. He has a knack for getting his hand on the ball, so there are a lot of things he can do on defense that will help us. And he’s shooting the hell out of the ball as well, so I’ve been happy to see that. He’s a very, very capable NBA player.
MT: With his length and foot speed, can he slide over to some of the better NBA point guards to relieve Nash specifically in certain situations?
MT: Like if he’s in with Nash against OKC, he could slide to Russell Westbrook …
Farmar: Right, and Nash on (Thabo) Sefolosha. That’s coach D’Antoni’s call, but Wesley is one of those guys, for sure.