Jordan Farmar has only been in Israel six weeks, but it seems he has already internalized the Maccabi experience. He says he feels a special excitement about his first Euroleague game, which is scheduled for tomorrow in Milan.
Farmar admits that games like the Super League opener this week or the Chance Cup last week are less important for Maccabi Tel Aviv - unless it loses. "If we win, they'll say we should have won, and if we lose, it's the biggest deal there is," he says.
At the beginning of the summer, head coach David Blatt said Maccabi would not take any NBA players during the lockout in the U.S. The concern was that Maccabi would become dependent on a superstar who could leave at any moment. In the end, that's exactly what has happened. Farmar signed, Jeremy Pargo demanded his release, and the New Jersey Nets point guard turned into the hub of Maccabi's wheel.
Farmar says he was a little surprised at how little time he has spent on the bench but understands the team wants him to play as much as possible while he is around. He says he tries to keep everyone involved in the game but he's prepared to be more aggressive if necessary. "I don't want others to feel that it's my show, and they're here to back me," he says. "I want everyone to feel that we're in this together because I might have to go and the others will have to take my place."
While Farmar is Jewish and eligible for citizenship, Maccabi decided for financial reasons to register him as a foreign player. He says he didn't know about the rule limiting rosters to four foreign players and he thought Maccabi would prefer that he play as an Israeli.
"I didn't know how much it would affect the team - that each time players have to sit on the sidelines," he says. Farmar notes that Greek guard Theodoros Papaloukas has had barely had any playing time, though is an important player who should get more time on the court.
While Maccabi is preparing for its third competition after the local league and the Adriatic League, Farmar is following developments across the ocean, where NBA talks are due to resume soon. He says he is trying not to think about the day after the lockout ends, though the thought crosses his mind. He says that he has not spent much time in Israel but will miss a lot of people when the time comes to leave.
Farmar can claim two NBA titles in his six-year career, but in Europe he is a rookie.
"The philosophy here is different," he says. There is a lot of one-on-one in the NBA, he explains. "You give your best player the room to do what he knows, and everyone else feeds off it," he says. In Europe, there's a togetherness, passing, penetration, moving the ball in and out, he says. It's all team play, both offense and defense.
The schedule and travel is the hardest part for Farmar. He says it is difficult to get used to the logistics of the long trips. "Sitting on the bus two hours is not something that happens in the NBA," he says. "It takes its toll. Sometimes you get up early and spend 15 hours on flights and travel."
On the other hand, he says, all the time together makes the team closer.
"You learn who loves to joke, who's afraid to fly. You learn all the little things that you can't see on the outside." Farmar says it is easy to get along with the Israelis because they know all the Americans jokes and understand their slang.
On the court, Farmar is most impressed with Lior Eliyahu. "I think he could play in the NBA, one of the best I've seen," he says. He adds that Guy Pnini and Yogev Ohayon are skilled at their positions, adding there are many talented Israeli players.
Although Farmar would be eligible to play on the Israeli national team, he remains coy about the prospect. He says he would have to think about it since it would mean spending a lot of time away from his home in Los Angeles.
"It would be a big commitment not just for me but also my family, and they would have to want it as much as me," he says. "They really love Israel, but they can also want other things."
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