NBA recruit Farmar focuses on leading Mac TA to glory

Sinai Says: New Jersey Nets guard wasn’t looking for lucrative offer or special status, he just wanted chance to play in TA, wasn’t shy about it.

Jordan Farmar_311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan Farmar_311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Acquiring NBA talent wasn’t in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s original plans this off-season.
As tempting as it might have been to try and sign some of the biggest names of the basketball world during the NBA lockout, Maccabi coach David Blatt decided that he would not bring in a player who may well leave before the end of the season.
But when Jordan Farmar came calling, the yellow-and-blue simply couldn’t turn him down.
The New Jersey Nets guard wasn’t looking for a lucrative offer or special status, he just wanted to have the chance to play in Tel Aviv and wasn’t shy about it.
Raised in Los Angeles by his Jewish mother Melinda and stepfather Yehuda Kolani, a Tel Aviv native, the 24-year-old Farmar has many memories of watching Maccabi in his visits to Israel as a child and decided to approach the reigning Israeli champion and Euroleague runner-up this past summer, offering to play for a nominal sum.
“I had offers from around Europe to come and play and an offer from Israel as well, but I thought that if I would go anywhere Maccabi would be my first choice,” Farmar told me earlier this week.
“I wanted to be in Tel Aviv where I have family and I’m familiar with the city and I know what it is all about. I had seen Maccabi games when I was younger and it was my first choice. I didn’t want to cause any inconvenience or take a lot of money or anything like that. I just wanted to make it work for both of us and we found a common ground and it does work.
“It started off as an idea and something that would be nice to do and turned into reality.”
Farmar, who won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and is currently one season into a three-year, $12 million contract with the Nets, has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Israel and isn’t too worried with the prospect of having to leave Maccabi midway through the season.
“It’s been great. I’ve had a good time so far and I’m looking forward to continuing,” said the UCLA alumni, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.0 assists in 24.6 minutes per game for the Nets last season.
“I got to a good position with myself where I am happy no matter what happens. While I’m here I play for Maccabi Tel Aviv and I’m committed and focused on this team and doing whatever I can to help this organization.
“If the day comes that they tell me I have to go back I will be okay with that. I’ll wish Maccabi the best and hopefully they can continue on and be successful. But if that never happens and I’m here the whole year our goal is to win every game we play and win the Euroleague, Israeli championship and Adriatic League.
“I just take it day by day and as of right now I play for Maccabi.”
As a Nets player representative, Farmar receives daily updates regarding the progress, or rather the lack thereof, in the negotiations for a new labor deal between representatives for NBA players and owners.
The league has already postponed training camps and canceled all 43 preseason games scheduled for October 9- 15 and Farmar doesn’t expect much progress to be made in the near future.
“Not any time soon,” answered Farmar when asked if there’s any chance of a breakthrough. “I’m pretty involved because I’m a player rep for the Nets so I have to be informed and let the other guys know what’s going on.
“But it’s still going back and forth and there’s a big gap between the owners and the players. It’s still going to be some time before we figure it out.”
Farmar even believes that the entire 2011/12 season may be lost to the lockout.
“I don’t think it would in the best interest of the league [to lock out the entire season], but you never know what could happen,” he said. “You just have to be prepared for anything. I don’t think that would be the best thing for the league, but it’s possible.”
Despite the looming shadow of the lockout, Farmar insists that he is fully focused on succeeding with Maccabi, which officially opens its 2011/2012 season with an Adriatic League game against Novo Mesto in Slovenia on Saturday.
“When I’m with the guys and the coaching staff my focus and my energy is dedicated to Maccabi,” Farmar said.
Farmar had initially thought he would be playing a supporting role at Maccabi, but Jeremy Pargo’s decision to controversially opt-out of the two-year deal he signed with Tel Aviv to realize his dream of playing in the NBA has changed all of that.
“That is definitely a concern of mine,” said Farmar. “When I was negotiating with Maccabi I was under the assumption that Pargo would still be here so that if I did have to leave they would still have somebody with which they made it a long way last year and they are comfortable with.
“I didn’t know that he wasn’t planning on coming back. But I guess management knew the situation and knew what the risk was. So I’m sure they have some other plan. I respect them and what they do and hopefully they will have that taken care of.
“You never know, maybe I’ll be here the whole year and it is not even an issue. I guess I’m not trying to think too far ahead.”
One of the reasons Maccabi chose to sign Farmar was the belief that a short yellow-and-blue experience could result in him returning on a fulltime basis sometime in the future.
“This opened the door for that possibility,” he said. “If you would have asked me two years ago ‘do I think I would be playing here?’ I would have told you no. But life presents challenges and opportunities and different circumstances that we have to make decisions and deal with and this is one of them.”
Farmar also revealed he would consider accepting Israeli citizenship and playing for the Israel national team, although he didn’t sound too excited about that prospect.

“It’s a lot for me to play a long NBA season and then to come and live here during the offseason which would be my time off,” he said. “It’s just about how my body is feeling and how my family is and the time and commitment it is going to take from me to be away from my family. It will be something I will address in the future.”
Farmar seems to be loving every moment with Maccabi, both on and off the court.
However, the fact that no one knows how long he will be around for makes it close to impossible to predict Maccabi’s fortunes in the coming season.
Millions of fans around the world might be hoping for a swift resolution to the NBA work stoppage, but there’s at least one team in the Middle East wearing yellow-and-blue that smiles every time another meeting between representatives for the players and owners goes by without any progress being made.

Follow Allon Sinai on Twitter: @AllonSinai