It always seemed in Jordan Farmar’s nature to become aggressive.
Push the speed. Create for himself. Show off his cockiness that Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has loved so much in his backup point guard.
But as he showed in the Lakers’ 108-94 preseason win Tuesday over the Utah Jazz, Farmar dropped a team-leading 20 points on 5 of 7 shooting on showcasing all those aforementioned qualities while still allowing the game to come to him.
He didn’t score in the first half and showed more interest in harnessing Wesley Johnson’s surprising 14-point effort that played a large part in the Lakers’ overcoming a sluggish start. Farmar exploded for 20 points in the second half by taking advantage of floor spacing (hitting 2 of 3 from three-point range) and attacking the basket en route to a 8 of 9 trip to the charity stripe.
It couldn’t have come more in handy. Steve Nash sat out the second half to avoid any further issues with his neck. Steve Blake continued his cold shooting stretch by going zero of two from the field. So there Farmar was in the final 2:59 ensuring the Lakers’ win both with his steady play and by hitting a pair of free throws.
“I’m not really focused on me as an individual,” Farmar said. “My job is to control the tempo and to bring a different energy and intensity. That’s why I’m in the game more. I’m a different player than Steve Nash and Steve Blake. When I’m on the floor, it’s going to be a little different. I’m trying to learn as much as I can from those guys and contribute any way I can when I’m on the floor.”
It appeared that patience paid off with his recovery, too.
He said he felt antsy surrounding missing three preseason games because of persisting pain in his right calf. Neither he nor the Lakers ever considered the injury serious. But on a team with a litany of injury concerns ranging from Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tendon and basically everything from Nash, why bother forcing the issue? Yet, Farmar both wanted to show how he could thrive under D’Antoni’s fast-paced system after feeling confined in his first stint with the Lakers (2006-2010) under Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. He also sounded eager on building off his solid performance in the team’s preseason opener two weeks ago against Golden State where he dropped nine points and seven assists.
Instead, Farmar waited.
He returned in the Lakers’ preseason loss last Friday to Golden State in Shanghai, and then produced his best game Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“They didn’t put any pressure on me to come back,” Farmar said. “They wanted me healthy for the long run. For me, it was tough. I worked really hard in the summer and I did well in the first preseason game. But its about being smart and being ready for a long season. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. We have to be prepared as possible to deal with it.”
Farmar showed that preparation paying off by demanding sharp cuts from his teammates, finding opportune times to push the tempo and, of course, hitting open shots. This all marks the job description D’Antoni envisioned Farmar providing all along, marking the first outline of a blueprint he wants to follow.
“It’s a long work in progress. This doesn’t mean anything right now,” Farmar said. “It’s about building toward what we’re here to accomplish. For me, it’s about trying to get positive momentum and then keep it rolling. Even when I’m not out on the floor, have the trust and my staff and teammates and go out and contribute to a long regular season.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org