The familiar settings will stay the same as Jordan Farmar makes the next step in his NBA career. He will stay in his hometown in Los Angeles. Farmar will still play home games at Staples Center. He will still compete for an NBA championship.
But one drastic difference will emerge. Farmar will no longer play for the Lakers. On Sunday, Farmar accepted the Clippers’ bi-annual exception of two years worth $4.2 million, including a player option for the second season.
“Lakers fans are mad at me,” Farmar said in an interview with the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. “They’re going crazy. But they don’t understand the business side of it.”
The Los Angeles Times first reported the deal.
Plenty of elements came into play.
The Lakers liked Farmar after averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 assists despite appearing in only 41 games of injuries that included a torn left hamstring and a strained right groin, ailments he said has since healed. The Lakers also became impressed with Farmar’s improved maturity from his first stint from 2006-2010. Farmar also had said this season he had hoped to stay with the Lakers. But in addition to their reluctance offering any role player a one-year deal to maintain financial flexibility, the Lakers also offered no assurances how any free agent, including Farmar, would fit their plans. They are still waiting to see whether their courtship surrounding LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will become successful.
“It would’ve been an easy decision if the Lakers said, ‘We want to make you a point guard and offer you ‘X, Y and Z and we would love to have you here,'” Farmar said. “But those weren’t the conversations going back and forth. So it wasn’t a choice for me to make.”
Farmar also sounded skeptical about his Lakers’ future even after James and Anthony decide theirs. Farmar sounded mindful about the Lakers’ strategy to limit spending to save up for Kevin Love in 2015 and Kevin Durant in 2016.
“If they get Carmelo or LeBron, they wouldn’t have any money left for me, Nick [Young] or whoever else wanted to sign as a Laker,” Farmar said. “In the event that didn’t happen, there had to be someone to say that ‘We’d love to have you.’ It wasn’t quite that easy.”
So instead, Farmar followed a trend of former Lakers players joining their crosstown rivals, which have included Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf.
Despite drawing interest from more lucrative offers from unspecified overseas and NBA teams, Farmar zeroed in on the Clippers. Not only does the roster feature an established coach (Doc Rivers), they seem built to compete for an NBA championship with an elite point guard (Chris Paul), an elite power forward (Blake Griffin) and an emerging center (DeAndre Jordan). It helped that backup point guard Darren Collison departed for the Sacramento Kings, and that Rivers reached out to Farmar early in the free agency process.
“He said, ‘I thought this would be a great fit for you,'” Farmar said. “‘I’ve been watching you for a long time and you would fit in with our guys. You’re exactly the kind of player that we want and need when we’re out there and competing for a championship. We just need to get over the hump.'”
Farmar also downplayed the Clippers’ pending sale surrounding the Sterling family to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, while embattled owner Donald Sterling fights through litigation.
“I think it will pretty much take care of itself,” Farmar said. “The NBA is on top of it. There might be legal issues right now. But I don’t think it’s going to affect what goes on the basketball floor.”
The final deal breaker: Farmar would not have to move away from Los Angeles. Though he has fielded stops in New Jersey, Israel and Turkey in between his Lakers stints, Farmar has attached greater importance into staying in his hometown. The former Woodland Hills Taft and UCLA standout married former UCLA and professional soccer player Jill Oaks and has two daughters.
“It was huge. I was an LA kid and Los Angeles is special to me,” Farmar said. “The Clippers organization is moving in the right direction. They’re young, fun and competitive. It’s a great balance. It’s something I haven’t had a chance to be a part of in my professional career. I’m excited to be able to play here in front of my friends and family, live in my house and be comfortable.”
Farmar used to enjoy that luxury as a Laker, becoming a key reserve that secured two NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. Despite last season’s nightmare that entailed countless losses and endless injuries, Farmar relished returning to his roots. Hence, why he offered the Lakers an olive branch as he said goodbye.
“I want to thank the Lakers organization and Lakers fans for always accepting me,” Farmar said. “Being able to come back home and play was special. There were good times and bad times. But I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’ Now at this point, I’m thankful for the Clippers’ opportunity for this chapter in my career. I look forward toward bringing another championship to the city of Los Angeles.”
But this time in a different uniform and for a different organization.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org