Jordan Farmar: Failure To Launch

by Sandy Dover

Jordan Farmar is a curious case to me. He’s long had the capabilities to play, the talent to succeed, and the ability to stay relevant in a game that makes stars as quickly as it makes mincemeat. But why can’t he break through? I have not seen the star prospect of yesterday in Bruin blue do work in the Prudential Center of present.

I remember his sophomore season at UCLA, his declaration for the NBA draft, and his value as a borderline first-round prospect. How? How was he so good at doing what he did? Phil Jackson preferred big point guards, but nonetheless he gave Jordan the opportunity to display his talent in his God-given package. A guy about 6’2” and around 180 lbs was more like B.J. Armstrong than Scott Pippen or Ron Harper, but I saw the talent.

Los Angeles was his home, and he broke out in his second season. Maybe it was when he decided to cut the trademark pompadour. Was it holding him back on the Forum’s blue & gold floor? Doubtful, but I remember dunks, quick cuts to the basket, and a confidence in his jump shot I hadn’t seen since his Final Four days.

For some reason, Jordan languished in 2009 and again in 2010, but not before making his declaration of entitlement to being the Lakers’ starting point guard next to Kobe Bryant. Of course, just saying it wasn’t enough — he changed his jersey number from 5 to 1 — but he’d become the fifth-best starter on the team had he earned the job over Derek Fisher anyway, so what was the point? Besides, anyone that saw Jordan’s pitifully average 2008-09 season knew he wasn’t taking anything away from The Rock. Not his starting job, not his Nikes, not anything. He secretly sulked and tried to hide his discontent on the bench when the gold gang won their second consecutive title, but his time was up.

Jordan could’ve stayed when he wanted, but he said he had to “move on”. That he liked being home in his native Los Angeles, but that he had to explore other opportunities. Good for him! The sad thing is that he ended up in New Jersey. Not that there’s much wrong with New Jersey, but if you’re going seek greener pastures, let your property at least have the sod laid down, right? Your better opportunities were going to come behind Devin Harris, a former All-Star point guard and an even higher-caliber player than the guy that kept beating you for a starting spot in L.A.?

I understand this too: NBA players have only a finite amount of time to make the most capital that they can, and it is in their best interests to earn. A salary upgrade from the Nets was a reasonable thing to entertain, but the irony is that Jordan’s replacement on the Laker bench, Steve Blake, was… well, Steve Blake, and the Lakers probably would’ve taken Jordan over Steve in a heartbeat!

Instead, the former Bruin languished with the Nets, just as he had done with the Lakers. Jordan began the season sitting behind Devin Harris, and ended it behind Deron Williams.

Now our hero is going to the land of his ancestors, to Israel. Possibly to get a starting role, but more importantly to continue to earn his living in the arena of professional basketball. It’s a winding road for the pompadoured one, and he still has the room to mature as a player, but I have to ask this: why has starting point-guardom eluded Jordan Farmar? And why has he failed to grasp it?

Sandy Dover is a published author, fitness advisor, and writer whose work has been featured and published by Robert Atwan’s “America Now”, U.S. News, Yahoo! and most prominently for SLAM magazine. You can find Sandy frequently via his SLAM San Dova Speak-Easy column and via his website.