Jordan Farmar left the Lakers after serving as a key cog in the machine of back-to-back title winning teams of 2009 and 2010, intent upon expanding his game and growing as a player.
He was able to do that with the (then) New Jersey Nets for two seasons, his minutes climbing to 24.6 per game from 18.0 in L.A., and after a brief stint in Israel, particularly with his Turkish club Anadolu Efes. There, he was the best player, with the most responsibility.
It didn't seem to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that Farmar would even be available to return due to a lucrative contract.
"In my experience with those kinds of agreements, dealing with those (foreign) clubs, it just seemed very unlikely that Jordan would want to pursue something like this because of the nature of the agreement," Kupchak said. "I'm not quite sure I've seen an agreement that paid so generously in recent times in Europe … he convinced me that it could happen."
Indeed, the Los Angeles native was ready to come home.
"I've been watching the Lakers since the moment I left," Farmar said at a press conference at the team's facility after being re-introduced on Friday. "I stayed up every night while I was overseas, till 2, 3, 4 in the morning watching games, just feeling that's where I belong. That's where I was the most comfortable. That was home for me. I missed that relationship and dynamic every day."
Still just 26 years old, Farmar returns to the Lakers a different player from the offensive spark plug who tried to quicken the pace when Derek Fisher rested. He averaged 9.9 points and 4.4 assists for the Nets while improving his shooting considerably, hitting 44.0 percent in 39 games in 2011-12. In Turkey, Farmar averaged 29.4 minutes per game against Europe's best in the Euroleague competition (29 games), hitting 47.2 percent from the field, 39.7 percent from three and 86.3 percent from the foul line towards averages of 13.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds.
"Going overseas and having to carry a whole team, the success of the team depended on how I played every night," Farmar explained. "Just that experience, having that much responsibility on my shoulders, really developed different areas of my game.
"I feel I'm a much better basketball player now than I was my first free agency. Coming in and being young, I dream of playing in a Mike D'Antoni system, somewhere you can just be free and push the ball and make a lot of plays. I think it will be a lot of fun."
In the short time Farmar's been abroad, the NBA has moved even more so towards guard-dominated sets on offense, with a plethora of explosive and skilled point men around the league. Farmar was often tasked with checking some of the quicker players for Phil Jackson's teams, and says he's eager to focus on that end for D'Antoni as well.
"The main thing to focus on is the desire to want to get stops, to want to be a problem, to want to be someone who has to be dealt with on that end of the floor," Farmar revealed. "I'm quick enough and strong enough to make things happen – it's about really wanting to put an imprint on that side of the floor."
While operating the triangle offense back in the day, Farmar would often simply pass the ball to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom and move into the corner to be a catch-and-shoot player. In Europe and to a lesser degree in Jersey (who had Deron Williams), Farmar has been playing something he considers to be much more conducive to his game for the past few years: pick-and-roll basketball.
"It's developed a lot – basically every possession last year was a pick and roll possession," he explained. "I'm really looking forward to working with Coach D'Antoni and his philosophy on the screen and roll and his fast-paced offense, and being able to sit down every day with Steve Nash and try to learn – people would pay a lot of money for that kind of tutelage."
Farmar certainly has the tools to be successful in the pick and roll, since his jump shot is strong enough to keep defenders honest, were they hoping to go underneath the screen. Meanwhile, the athleticism that has Farmar still ranking high atop the charts of every player the Lakers have ever worked out prior to draft days keeps defenders from being too eager to blitz the screen/roll over the top.
How much he'll have the basketball remains to be seen, however, since Nash, Steve Blake and Bryant remain in purple and gold. But Farmar couldn't have seemed less worried about that, which stands in contrast to his feeling in 2010. Now, he just wants to be a Laker and help however he can.
"(I came home for) life experience and basketball experience," he concluded. "Missing what this place means to me as a person and as a player … watching some struggles and feeling like I'd love to try and help. I wanted to be home and I wanted to be a Laker.