Friday, June 30, 2006

Farmar Looked Suited For NBA

By Mike Bresnahan
Los Angeles Times

The former UCLA guard caught the Lakers' eye at the pre-draft camp with his solid play, but he also dressed and acted like a professional.

The flight to Orlando was filled with little kids, their parents, and, closer to the back of the plane, hope.

Many of the passengers were on their way to Disney World, but Jordan Farmar was on a career path.

The UCLA Bruin was headed to the NBA pre-draft camp this month in Florida, and the 6-foot point guard needed to reach new heights in order to guarantee a spot as a first-round selection in the draft.

Which is exactly what he did. No behind-the-back passes. No degree-of-difficulty dunks. He didn't play astoundingly for five-minute stretches and then, just as quickly, disappear.

Just strong, consistent play — finding open teammates, playing the pick-and-roll to perfection — against strong competition. And a 42-inch vertical leap didn't hurt.

Lottery players traditionally skip the camp because of the possibility of holes being exposed in their game, but of the group that participated, Farmar placed in the top two or three players.

"That's when he secured his position in the first round," said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who took Farmar with the 26th pick in Wednesday's draft. "The things that he did at UCLA and the things that he showed us during the [individual] workout, he showed at that level of competition. And that level of competition is certainly better than what he played against at UCLA.

"All those guys are all-conference, they're MVP of their conference. He showed that he's got something special that even shines when the competition gets better and better. Poise is a word a lot of general managers throw around, but for a young guy to have that kind of poise, it's unusual."

Off the court, Farmar also set out to impress.

He made a dedicated decision to wear suits at the pre-draft camp and to individual team workouts around the country, often ironing his own clothes. Much like his father, Damon, did during a minor league baseball career that spanned nine years, Farmar looked and acted professionally, catching the eye of NBA personnel whose jobs hinge on noting every detail, every idiosyncrasy of draftable players.

"I'd see guys coming in T-shirts, shorts and sandals and I'd have a suit," Farmar said. "It would be hot and I'd be sweating, but it was important for me to show I was a professional, very concerned about the way I presented myself. This was a job interview."

His new employers are pleased to have him in the company directory after a two-month period referred to by Farmar as the busiest of his life.

Two weeks after the Bruins lost to Florida in the NCAA championship game, Farmar announced he would try the draft without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to UCLA. His decision to leave school early was met with lukewarm reaction.

Most general managers pegged him as a bubble candidate for the first round, perilous territory. First-round picks get guaranteed money for at least two years. Second-round picks get an invitation to training camp and little else until they prove themselves worthy.

Farmar first worked out for the Lakers three weeks ago.

"At that time, there were a lot of other players that were deciding whether to keep their name in or take their name out," Kupchak said. "My advice to Coach [Ben] Howland was that [Farmar] should stay in school because you don't know if a guy was going to be drafted 26th or 35th. In my opinion, and Coach would agree, if you're a lottery pick, hey, come on out. If not, you might be 18 to 20. If you're late in the first round, you may end up in an area you don't want to end up in."

Farmar is now guaranteed at least $1.6 million over his first two seasons. The Lakers could then pick up third- and fourth-year options at $1.1 million and $1.9 million.

Unlike past Lakers draft picks who had to travel from New Jersey and Slovenia, Farmar's Thursday afternoon drive to El Segundo to meet with team officials and then with the local media was quick and painless, except for a little freeway traffic.

He wore jersey No. 1 at UCLA and at Woodland Hills Taft High, but he posed for pictures with No. 5 because Smush Parker wears No. 1. (Kupchak informed Farmar that another jersey number had recently become available, but he added, "I'm not sure picking No. 8 would be the way to start your career.")

Just the same, Kobe Bryant was part of the welcoming committee, calling Farmar early Thursday just as Farmar was … ironing one of his suits.

"I looked at the number and didn't recognize it," Farmar said. "At first I thought it was somebody playing around. He kept talking and saying congratulations, which was good."

There's still work to do. Coach Phil Jackson strongly suggested in his meeting with Farmar that good on-ball defense would be critical to his success.

Kupchak said on draft night that the Lakers aren't really counting on him next season, or even necessarily the one after that.

In the bigger picture, though, Farmar managed to turn himself from borderline material into first-round territory. From Taft High to UCLA to the Lakers, all via that camp in Orlando.

"I showed I was a little stronger than people thought, a little more athletic than people thought," Farmar said. "I think that was big for me just to show up there. A lot of guys tried to dodge that, like something is going to get exposed. I had nothing to hide."

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: AP)


At Jun 30, 2006, 10:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is going to be fun to watch Jordan play for the Lakers in the NBA. It's also going to be fun to watch Ben Howland and the Bruins march right back to the title game and win it next year.


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