By Jeremy Last
The Associated Press
TEL AVIV, Israel — Greeted at the airport by fans singing and banging drums, New Jersey Nets guard Jordan Farmar said today he is excited about playing during the NBA lockout with Israeli champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, a club he followed as a youngster.
Aside from Israel’s own Omri Casspi, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Farmar is the only Jewish player in the NBA.
He is one of the highest-profile players to play for Maccabi, the runner-up in the Euroleague last season and an organization he said is “committed to winning.”
Farmar, the former Taft High of Woodland Hills and UCLA star won two NBA titles with the Lakers before joining the Nets in 2010, will play for Tel Aviv as long as the lockout continues.
“I’m committed to this team, to the coaching staff and the organization for the time I am here and I want to do my part to help the team grow,” Farmar said at a news conference at Maccabi’s Nokia Arena. “Leaving at the end is not something I’m looking forward to … but there is a business aspect to it. Part of my contract says when the NBA restarts I have to go back.”
Farmar has been interested in Maccabi since he visited Israel as a youngster and saw the team play. Farmar’s parents divorced when he was a child. His mother is Jewish, and his stepfather is Israeli. His father, former baseball player Damon Farmar, is black.
After playing for UCLA, Farmar became the first Jewish player in the NBA since Danny Schayes — son of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes — retired in 1999.
“Jordan is one of the best and most exciting and I believe most special guards who have come to Israel for a long time. We’re thrilled to have him,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “The great part of the story is Jordan wanted to come and we wanted him. It was really a decision of the heart rather than a professional matter.”
Farmar expects to adjust easily to the European game and fit in well with a deep Maccabi squad.
“I’m here to be a positive influence,” he said. “I’m a leader by nature, whether I’m on the floor or not. I’m not here to show anybody up. I’m just trying to be a member of the team, a positive influence and whatever they ask of me I’ll do.”