- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- While Kobe Bryant took to Twitter late Tuesday night to defend his position in deserving every dollar of the $48.5 million contract extension the Los Angeles Lakers offered him, Jordan Farmar's play in Wednesday's 99-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets was a shining example that sometimes the money doesn't matter as much as the situation you find yourself in.
Farmar left nearly $3 million on the table to play for the Lakers for a veteran's minimum deal after being bought out of his contract with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish league this summer. Even though seven of his teammates are earning more than him this season, Farmar has proven to be a valuable member of the team.
"He knows his role and I think he embraces it," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after Farmar had 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks off the bench, helping L.A. to its first win on the second night of a back-to-back all season after starting 0-3.
With that kind of production, should his role increase?
Farmar played 22 minutes against the Nets, a night after putting up 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with eight assists in 26 minutes against the Washington Wizards.
While Farmar was selfless about his salary to come to L.A., he can't help but wish for more playing time.
"I think the more opportunity I get to play and the more I'm on the floor, the guys respond to me differently and let me lead them," Farmar said. "[They] let me put guys in positions to be successful. Get Nick [Young] where he needs the ball. If I'm playing with Jordan Hill, run pick-and-roll with him. That's my job though. And the more I'm out there I start getting into a comfort zone, a rhythm, start knocking down shots. And I think when my minutes are spotty, that's the one thing that's going to go, is my shooting."
Indeed, the magic minute marker for Farmar this season seems to be 20. In the eight games he has played 20 minutes or more, he's averaging 13.3 points on 49.3 percent shooting. In the eight games he has played 20 minutes or less, he's averaging 5.8 points on 37.1 percent shooting.
"I'm a rhythm kind of guy," Farmar said. "Once I get a feel for the game, it's much easier for me to make shots at a consistent level."
The key for Farmar is doing something productive with the first set of minutes he plays to give himself a longer leash with D'Antoni. Sometimes he never gets a chance to find that rhythm if his play isn't as sharp as the coach wants from the start, so he goes in another direction.
"He knows that if he goes good, I'll leave him in the rest of the game," D'Antoni said. "I think he understands that. It's up to the guys. If they play really well, we'll find them minutes. I think he's fine with it. I'm sure he'd love to start and I'm sure he'd love to play 40 minutes, but right now that's his role and let him do the best he can with it."
Of course, as a point guard, Farmar's role is not just to get himself going, but his teammates too. He has done a great job of that so far, as L.A. came into Wednesday leading the league in bench scoring at 46.3 points per game. The Lakers were slightly above average against the Nets, scoring 51. Farmar had a plus/minus rating of plus nine when he was on the court with him helping Young, who he has played with since high school, go off for a season-high 26 points.
"That was my goal coming here," Farmar said. "That was my plan, to have that responsibility to take my abilities and the game that I've worked so hard to develop and be a leader out there on the floor and help guys get in their stuff. Make sure Nick is rolling, try to get X [Xavier Henry] going, get Shawne Williams open looks and then pick my spots and be aggressive. That's my job on this team and I just try to do it."
Pau Gasol said he can see a change in the Farmar who left the Lakers after winning a second consecutive championship in 2009-10 and the one who's back in the fold now.
"I think he's really matured," Gasol said. "He's got great confidence in his game. He makes better decisions, I believe. I think he's more of a point guard now than he was before. I've really enjoyed his improvement as a player."
Of course, if Farmar continues to play as well has he has been for the rest of the season, there's only going to be one way to keep the free agent to be in L.A. going forward: show him the money.
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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2dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
2dMatt Walks, ESPN.com