Home-Grown Leader

by September 22, 2008

by Nima Zarrabi

While Lake Show fans continue to fawn over the health of young pivot Andrew Bynum, the status of its point guard position is drawing little fanfare.

Much of that has to do with having a supreme operator of the triangle offense in fan favorite Derek Fisher. DFish is still a solid starting point guard and his leadership qualities and intangibles are immeasurable. Should the Lakers make another run to the NBA Finals, Fisher will no doubt play a key role. That being said, Fisher turned 34 over the summer.

In a wild West that features CP3, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Jerryd Bayless (is he for real?) the Lakers are going to need a bigger contribution from young Jordan Farmar (who turns 22 in November). Farmar made great strides last season coming off the bench for LA in his 2nd season, averaging 20 minutes and 6 points per. He spent the off-season fine-tuning his game while making ample time for some charity work. I had a chance to catch up with Jordan last week in Santa Monica, at Shaun Livingston’s charity event.

SLAM: Tell us what you’ve been up to this summer.

Jordan Farmar: I’ve been doing a little bit of everything. I’ve done a lot of charity work. I made my way to Israel and got kids who are Palestinian and Israeli to work together through basketball clinics.

SLAM: Is that the program that agent Arn Tellem is involved with?

JF: No. Arn is my agent and he does a separate program. I actually went out there on my own. I went to Israel and did it on site – my own basketball camp.

SLAM: What was that like? Were you nervous at all to travel to Israel?

JF: Not at all. I’ve been there a few times before. It’s a beautiful and historic place – no matter what your beliefs are. For me, it’s a form of charity. Trying to help any way I can. It’s not a way to solve the war, but it’s a way to help. Getting the kids to realize that they’re people. If they can see each other as people and not enemies, we’re taking a step in the right direction.

SLAM: What are the kids like over there?

JF: They were responsive. High-fiving each other and passing back and forth. Just being kids as kids should. They can get caught up in a lot of the media and the drama and the teaching of their families and cultures, that they forget their just kids and should enjoy life.

SLAM: Are they passionate about basketball there?

JF: Yeah. Basketball is a worldwide sport. My mother’s Jewish, so having somebody who can relate to their country who plays in the NBA and for the Lakers, gives them a different level of excitement.

SLAM: It’s been great watching you over the years here in LA. You’ve had a chance to live out this dream of playing high school, college and pro ball in LA. Talk about that.

JF: It’s been great. A dream come true. I’m trying to continue to work and get better every day. Seeing how far it takes me. I’m just along for the ride and loving every minute of it.

SLAM: There are some moments during games when you get loose and show some exciting flashes. Do you feel like the last two systems you have played in have held you back from showcasing some of that ability?

JF: I can’t bash any of the systems I’ve been in because it has gotten me to where I am. I am a professional athlete, had a chance to play in the NBA Finals, playing for one of the greatest coaches of all time and with the greatest player in the world today. For me it’s about refining my game and being a professional. Trying to find where I can fit in – how I can improve my game to fit in the system I’m in. One day I may play in a system where I have the ball and can make decisions like I know how. But right now I have to impact the games other ways. Defensively, getting steals, making plays happen for me and my teammates. There’s a bunch of ways to affect a game other than having the ball. I’ve had to learn that. I’ve had to work on a lot of things. Catch and shoot. I usually have the ball so coming off the dribble was a lot easier. Standing there, catch and shoot, knocking down shots at a high percentage – just being a professional.

SLAM: You’ve always been a high-energy player, but last year it seemed like you played with a real attitude. You looked like you wanted to stomp on some necks last year. Was that a change in attitude?

JF: That’s no change – just myself coming out. Being more comfortable with the NBA game. As a rookie, you want to do well and try to do everything right. As you get more comfortable in the League, you start playing the way you know how to play: with instincts, energy, enthusiasm and passion. They just take over.

SLAM: Where do you see your role with the Lakers this year? Do you see your role evolving each season?

JF: Absolutely. It’s hard to say. This is my town – the city that raised me. I want to give everything it gave me, back. I want to be the face of the organization one day. I want to be the starting point guard and the guy that they look to. We have Kobe Bryant and he is great and I think he will be here for the rest of his career. I want to be right there alongside him. I love LA. I love playing for the team I grew up watching and loving. I want to keep improving and make my role more integral every year. By me pushing Derek for the starting spot, that will make us both better. I want to start here—I want to be here. He’s been a great guy, a mentor and leader for me. But I’m going to continue to make strides in my career and we will work together as a team to make this thing happen.

SLAM: I know you and Luke Walton hang out a bit, sounds like you live next to each other. I heard you recently taught him how to tie a necktie.

JF: My grandma worked in the fashion industry when I was growing up, so she always made sure I was looking sharp. She taught me all the do’s and don’ts of dressing. I try to pass that knowledge along to my teammates (laughs).

SLAM: Who is your favorite designer?

JF: That is extremely tough. The big designers are great. Louie, Gucci. I’m wearing Dolce right now (looks at his kicks). They make quality shoes. They’re going to cost you a little extra money, but they’re going to last you for a while.