Thursday, June 29, 2006

Kobe Calls To Congratulate Farmar

By The Associated Press

When Jordan Farmar's cell phone rang Thursday morning, he wasn't surprised to discover it was another call of congratulations.

But it wasn't just any caller - it was Kobe Bryant.

"That was the best way to start my career, to get a phone call from the best player in the NBA,'' Farmar said at a news conference less than 24 hours after the Los Angeles Lakers took him in the first round of the NBA draft with the 26th overall selection.

"It wasn't long at all - about 5 minutes,'' Farmar said of his conversation with Bryant. "It was very meaningful to me. He's the best player in the NBA and we're on the same team.''

Farmar, who turns 20 in November, passed up his final two years of eligibility at UCLA to make himself available for the draft. He played at Taft High in nearby Woodland Hills, then started all 66 games in which he played over two seasons with the Bruins, who advanced to the NCAA championship game this spring before losing to Florida.

The 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 13.2 points and 5.3 assists as a freshman and 13.5 points and 5.1 assists as a sophomore, when he was a first-team All Pac-10 performer.

"Man, I'm very excited to be here,'' he said. "It's been the longest month of my life, traveling around the country to pursue my lifelong dream. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. I'm blessed to be here.''

There were some who questioned Farmar's decision to pass up his final two seasons at UCLA, but he was very impressive in pre-draft workouts in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. He made his final decision to stay in the draft on June 18 - the deadline for withdrawing.

"It was the toughest decision of my life so far,'' he said. "I had to follow my dream. I just want to get out there and make my dream a reality.''

Farmar's family attended the news conference at the Lakers' training facility.

"He called to give me directions, and he told us about his call from Kobe,'' said Farmar's mother, Mindy Kolani. "We're all just numb - we're all so excited.''

Farmar's mother acknowledged to having doubts when Farmar made his decision to leave school.

"I'm really big on education. I wanted him to get his degree,'' she said. "Mostly, I wanted him to be happy. He said, `I just have this feeling it's going to work out.' He told us to have faith in his decision.''

And so, she said she does.

While Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak reiterated he doesn't expect Farmar to play big minutes next season, Farmar said: "If I'm going to be an asset on the court, I'm going to play.''

When asked what advice he offered to Farmar, Kupchak replied: "He can control how good he's going to be based on work, improvement. The talent is there. He's in control of his own destiny.''

The Lakers selected center Cheick Samb from Senegal in the second round with the 51st overall selection, but traded his rights to Detroit for swing man Maurice Evans, who averaged 5.0 points in 80 games for the Pistons last season.

"I think we're a better team today than we were yesterday,'' said Kupchak, pointing to the addition of Farmar and Evans. "I think Maurice Evans gives us an added dimension.''

The Lakers also sent a 2007 second-round draft pick to Dallas for the rights to guard J.R. Pinnock, who averaged 14.5 points per game for George Washington last season. The Mavericks drafted Pinnock with the 58th overall selection.

"We're not done,'' Kupchak said, making it clear there were more changes in store.

After reaching the NBA finals four times in five years and winning three championships, the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami two years ago and took a nosedive, going 34-48 and missing the playoffs.

They rebounded this season, going 45-37 before taking a 3-1 lead over Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. But the Suns became the eighth team in NBA history to overcome such a deficit, winning the final three games including a 31-point blowout in Game 7.


(photo credit: AP)


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