by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
I was carefully scanning the wall of shoes at Champs when I was startled by what surely had to be Justin Bieber-induced screams.
When I turned around and saw all the young girls in attendance freak out as Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar entered the store, reality set in and I remembered my reason for being in the Valley. On Tuesday evening, Farmar and Clippers guard Eric Gordon showed up at Champs at the Northridge Fashion Center on behalf of adidas to kick off the opening of an official NBA store within the retailer. Fans will now be able to pick up authentic NBA apparel by adidas at most Champs stores nationwide.
It was a cool event dominated mostly by Lakers fans, although they showed Gordon plenty of support as well, with some fans demanding he defect to The Lake Show. The event was hosted by a local MC who brought both players up to a mini stage set up in the corner of the store where they were interviewed briefly. Fans had a chance to take photos and video as shirts and tickets were raffled off. Farmar could barely talk over the middle school girls screaming “I love you Jordan!” as he spoke. Farmar is clearly a natural with fans. A local high school and college star before joining the Lakers, he’s attended many events like this in the past and it shows. Gordon was great as well, but he’s a few years younger and still a bit shy.
After their interviews, the players headed up to the cash registers to put in some work. Decked out in their Champs uniforms, Gordon and Farmar helped ring up customers for about half an hour, signing autographs and taking pictures. “It’s nice to see the support from all the fans,” Farmar says. “They get a chance to interact with you personally. It’s nice to be yourself. It’s fun.”
As I watched nearby, I caught up with Elie Seckbach of AOL Fanhouse and he came across a 14-year-old girl named Brenda who was trying to rap her way to the front of the line so she could get an autograph from Farmar. She started rapping Kobe Bryant by Lil Wayne: I’m going for the ring/I’m going for the ring/I went to Bejing and came back with the bling.
It was a sight to behold. A couple of Seckbach’s audio clips from his past interviews are embedded in the actual song, so he enjoyed Brenda’s verses. When the line finally died down and Brenda ran out of breath, I had a chance to catch up with both players in the Champs stockroom. I damn near had a Lil Dez moment back there when I saw all the rows of shoes, stacked up to the ceiling.
While Farmar and Gordon are two players in completely different situations, both believe they have yet to fulfill their full potential. Despite the Clippers lack of success this season, Gordon has had a stellar sophomore campaign, averaging about 17 ppg while shooting about 45 percent from the floor.
SLAM: What did you think of the event?
Eric Gordon: Lots of Lakers fans here, but overall, it was a fun event.
SLAM: I know you’re one of the young players who adidas is very excited about. How has your experience with the brand gone thus far?
EG: I’ve had a great relationship with them. I really knew most of the guys over there before I signed—I’ve known them since high school. That’s really why I’m happy to be with them.
SLAM: Are you hoping that someday you will become one of their marquee endorsers, like Dwight Howard?
EG: Oh yeah, definitely. I would love to have that type of hype with advertisements.
SLAM: Talk about this season. I know it didn’t go as planned for you guys. How frustrating has it been?
EG: It really is frustrating. We had a lot of expectations this year and now you have to restart and do it again next year. It’s been a whirlwind. Hopefully we will come out good real soon.
SLAM: There was a lot of talk in the media about you focusing on driving to the basket early this year rather than relying on your jumper. Was that accurate?
EG: That’s what some people seem to think. But I’ve always gone to the basket and tried to use my size and get to the line.
SLAM: Have you heard anything about the direction the Clippers are going to go coaching wise?
EG: No. It’s been under the radar right now. They said they’re not going to announce a coach until July so we’re going to wait and see.
SLAM: What are your plans for the off-season?
EG: I usually stay in Indiana and I’m going to work on trying to get better in various areas. Its hard being a point guard and shooting guard, learning how to do all the different things needed. I’m going to work on my post game and some different things to help make me better.
SLAM: As a great shooter, what advice can you give any kids out there looking to improve their shot?
EG: It always starts with form. Everybody has different form. But as long as you can find your own niche in how to make shots in a comfortable way, you’ll be fine.
SLAM: I had a chance to watch you play at the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas in 2006. Your AAU team played a great game against the Southern California All Stars. You, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings and Kevin Love were all on the floor. Taylor King, Renardo Sidney and Daniel Hackett weren’t too bad either. You had a crazy breakaway dunk that sent all the kids from the stands onto the floor. Sonny Vaccaro had to restore order. Do you remember that?
EG: Of course. It was crazy. [Smiles]
In his fourth season with the Lakers, Farmar has averaged 7 ppg in about 18 minutes of action a night. A solid backup to starter Derek Fisher, Farmar is hoping to become the Lakers future floor general.
SLAM: Talk about your relationship with adidas. It goes back to your days at UCLA, right?
Jordan Farmar: I actually wore them in high school as well, then college and all of my time in the NBA, so it’s been quite a while. They’ve taken good care of me. We have a good relationship.
SLAM: Seems like the brand fits your style.
JF: They’ve got a lot of cool stuff. Their Originals are incredible. I like to keep it simple, comfortable and cool. They do all that.
SLAM: Talk about your play this year and your progression as an NBA player.
JF: Just trying to do more and more. I’m on a championship team where the margin for error is very small. Coming off the bench is tough—we all have our roles and have to make sacrifices to be a championship contender. We’re trying to do that. The biggest step for me has been trying to fit into a role and continue to grow at the same time. It’s been a great ride so far. I’ve won a championship and been there and lost. We’re looking forward to defending the title this year.
SLAM: Are you happy with your role on this team?
JF: I’m definitely happy as far as being a part of a championship contender as a young player in the League. But I definitely want more in my career. I want to run a team—I want to be a starting point guard. I definitely feel like I have that ability if given the opportunity.
SLAM: Do you think you guys are where you need to be at this point as a team?
JF: At this point we’re not playing our best basketball. We’ll figure it out by the time the Playoffs come around. We’re still in first place in the West and the Western Conference is extremely tough. We definitely have to turn it up a notch.
SLAM: Talk about your future. Where are you contractually at this point?
JF: I will be a restricted free agent so the Lakers will have a chance to match. My desire is to be a starting point guard. We’ll take it from there. At this point, that doesn’t matter right now. It’s about helping our team win the championship. I would love to be a Laker my whole career. I’ve been a fan my entire life, so it would be special. But I’m not too worried about that right now.
SLAM: Do you think Phil Jackson will be back next year?