Forgotten Piece Of Lakers' Puzzle

On the day the Los Angeles Lakers completed a trade for Pau Gasol, Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams expressed his disappointment in the Memphis Grizzlies.

"Why did they do that to us?" Williams said, laughing. "Trade him to the East."

Gasol finally makes his much-anticipated debut for the Lakers tonight in New Jersey. While Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan thought the Gasol trade was significant in shaking up the Western Conference, he added that the Lakers made a more critical move over the summer - when they signed Derek Fisher.


I got your back, Kobe. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

"When you look at the whole thing, we lost a very good player from our team who went to the Lakers," Sloan said of Fisher, who helped him get to the conference finals last season for the first time since he had John Stockton and Karl Malone. "He gave us 10, 11 years [of experience]. You can't replace that sometimes."

No, Fisher is not and has never been an all-star caliber player. He didn't lift the Lakers back into the rock star status the team had when Shaquille O'Neal was in Los Angeles. He's averaging 12.3 points and 3 assists - stats that won't blow away anyone - but his impact on the Lakers cannot be ignored. "It's really helped us become a strong ball club," Kobe Bryant said.

For one, Fisher, the president of the NBA Players' Association, has brought an attitude of professionalism to the team. Two, Fisher has brought the stability and steady hand to the point guard position that Smush Parker never could.

"His leadership is a prime factor for us," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "He knows all the little things that have to be done. He can see the shortcomings and he doesn't get frustrated about it. Therefore, the rest of the guys don't get anxious. That kind of an attitude works wonders for teams. He fits in extremely well."


See that, Derek. See. That right there was why I wanted out of here. I hear you, Kobe, but Mitch was never trading you. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

More importantly, his friendship with Bryant - cultivated as they shared the first eight years of their careers together - cannot be diminished, especially after Bryant spent so much of the offseason and training camp obsessing for a trade. At the end of the day, Bryant doesn't care who is teammates are as long as he is winning, but Fisher has re-assumed his role as sounding board for Bryant, giving him a teammate he can trust; one with whom Bryant won three championships in the early part of this decade.

And finally, you can never overlook winning and experience. Bryant has lost in the first round to Phoenix the past two years. Fisher has never been on a team that failed to win a playoff round with the exception of two years in Golden State, when the Warriors didn't make the playoffs under Coach Mike Montgomery (is that really Fisher's fault?). Fisher has been the conference finals five times and the NBA Finals four times.

When Fisher rejoined the Lakers after a three-year break this summer, he knew that he'd have to help relieve Bryant from some of the leadership responsibilities that overburdened him after the championship Lakers were broken up.

He sat down with Bryant for lunches to get a feel for the makeup and personalities of the team. Fisher said he and Kobe never discussed his trade demand or the need for Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to get Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, or even Gasol to become a legitimate contender.

"There wasn't much talk about, 'We should do this.' Or, 'Go tell Mitch this is what we should do,' " Fisher said. "We weren't sitting back waiting on something to happen to become one the best teams in the league. We set out at the start of the season to become that."

The Jazz agreed to release Fisher from the final three years and $21 million of the contract he originally signed with the Golden State Warriors so that he could concentrate on treating his infant daughter, Tatum, who has rare condition called retinoblastoma, a form of cancer, in her left eye.


I just beat the Warriors. Next, it's retinoblastoma. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson)

Fisher's memorable heroics during Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals became a national story, as he returned from his daughter's surgery in New York to help the Jazz defeat the Warriors. He said doctors recommended six or seven cities for her care, and Salt Lake City was not one of them.

"D-Fish meant a lot to this team, mentally, emotionally, and he was a great player. For us to lose somebody like that has been really tough," said Williams, whose Jazz team struggled before this latest run of nine wins in a row put them back atop the Northwest Division.

Fisher said his return to Los Angeles - he signed a three-year, $14 million deal last July - was the result of "unfortunate circumstances." But it is still the source of controversy in Salt Lake City, where some Jazz fans believe Fisher used his daughter's illness to weasel out of a place he didn't want to be. Fisher was stunned to receive boos when he returned for his first game back there last December.

"I enjoyed the one year in Utah, playing with those guys," Fisher said. "It felt great to experience it because of how great the team is. We all enjoyed the ride together because we respected one another. We all appreciated each others strengths and weaknesses. And we really went out there every night, not without any plans on how we were going to win the game. The goal was just to win the game."

Fisher didn't know what to expect when he signed with the Lakers, but he had a hunch. "I felt like we had a chance to be pretty good, even with the personnel we had at the beginning of the season," Fisher said. "But there were so many unknowns. Nobody knows at the time Andrew Bynum is going to be playing at almost an all-star level. Nobody knows Jordan Farmar would emerge as one of the best role playing guards in the league. The development of those two guys, along with everything else we were able to build around here, it's really changed the perception of our team."


You'd better be ready to play, Pau. This ain't Memphis. I'm not as warm and fuzzy as Hubie Brown and Mike Fratello. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

And now, with Gasol? "It makes things, obviously, for us, feel great," Fisher said.

It's a little ironic that Gasol makes his debut in New Jersey, where all-star point guard Jason Kidd serves as a reminder of how the Lakers' situation has come full circle. They came close to acquiring Kidd at the trade deadline last season, and Kupchak's refusal to include Bynum in the deal sent Bryant over the edge.

Bryant had that angry rant to trade Bynum (good thing Mitch didn't move him) and later demanded a trade (good thing Mitch didn't move him) because he didn't believe the franchise was trying to win championships anymore.

Bryant's desire to have Kidd was understandable since the Lakers sorely needed a point guard and Kidd is one the best to ever play the position. When asked if the Lakers needed to make another deal (perhaps for Kidd?) before the deadline, Bryant joked, "I let Mitch handle that stuff. I stopped playing GM in the summer."

Fisher is no Kidd, but he has been exactly what the Lakers needed.

By Michael Lee |  February 5, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
Previous: Rough road ahead | Next: Shaq To Get Traded? What?

Comments

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Did anyone see Gilbert's Drama Baby Mama, Laura at the game on Sunday. She was in section 118, with her mother from California. I guess she came with her to help take care of those two kids that Gilbert seems to avoid that responsibility :).. He disappeared after the the firt half and didn't return..
She sat there quietly trying to entertain the 11 month old boy.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 2:21 PM

I agree, Derek Fisher was a major piece in the Lakers three peat. Celtics vs. Lakers for the NBA Finals! I can see David Stern smile from miles away!

Posted by: Dave, | February 5, 2008 2:26 PM

Fisher is old. The future is Farmar! He'll be starting next season. I guarantee it.

Posted by: lakeronthebeach | February 5, 2008 3:24 PM

What is the big deal with Pau Gasol? Hasn't he been a softy his whole career? He couldn't handle the pressure in Memphis! Memphis! People think he can help the Lakers win a title? Oh yeah, at least they have Derek Fisher. He's a championship starting point guard. Not!

Posted by: Lakers Ain't All That | February 5, 2008 3:27 PM

Shocker of the day: Michael Lee is writing about other teams on the Wizards blog.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Post clearly wants Michael working on other NBA news and Ivan working on the Wiz beat. So why are they both on the Wiz blog?

Give Michael his own NBA blog just like Mark Maske has his own NFL blog, and be done with it.

Posted by: barno | February 5, 2008 3:38 PM

Did anyone see Gilbert's Drama Baby Mama, Laura at the game on Sunday. She was in section 118, with her mother from California. I guess she came with her to help take care of those two kids that Gilbert seems to avoid that responsibility :).. He disappeared after the the firt half and didn't return..
She sat there quietly trying to entertain the 11 month old boy.

Posted by: | February 5, 2008 02:21 PM

You seriously need to get a life...

Posted by: barno | February 5, 2008 3:41 PM

I've always respected Derek Fisher. He seems like a nice guy. But Mike, do you have dedicate so much space to him? My goodness. That took me all afternoon to read.

Posted by: misguided bullets | February 5, 2008 3:41 PM

THE LAKERS ARE ALL THAT AND THEN SOME.
BESIDES BEING GOOD LOOKING, CAN DANCE A MEAN SALSA - FISHER IS PART OF THE KOBE, SHAQ, HORRY LAKER TEAM. HE'S YOUR ANTONIO DANIELS ONLY BETTER LOOKING. BESIDES - AS I RECALL THOSE EARLIER SERIES - HE TOOK SOME FABULOUS SHOTS - SPECIFICALLY THE ONE THAT SENT THE GAME AGAINST THE SPURS INTO OVERTIME. Strange - he never made a big deal about that famous shot - now if Arenas had taken that shot...he'd still be reminding people about it. Not Fisher -he's got class - not an a-- like Arenas.
The publicity monger & absent critical "daddy" Uses publicity to "tell" people about the gifts he buys his kids..just forgets gifts don't raise children - mothers & father's do.


Kobe, Fisher, Farmar, Bynum Gasol

Posted by: Patty | February 5, 2008 3:43 PM

Shut up, barno. We've been down this road already. Mike and Ivan both write for the Wiz insider. I enjoy getting stories from around the league. The stuff Mike does is usually pretty good. If you hate the other teams or don't care about them, don't read Mike's stories.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 3:45 PM

Patty, why you got to bring up Gilby? What did he do to you?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 3:47 PM

Oh yeah, at least they have Derek Fisher. He's a championship starting point guard. Not!

He's got three rings that say otherwise.

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 4:01 PM

The one most noticeable thing about the loss to the Lakers was the lack of playing time for Blatche. With the way he played while Caron was out, I think he earned time...especially since everything else that the Wizards tried against LA didnt work. He was a real force while Caron was out. I'm not saying we would have won, but I think it should have been attempted since we were being blown out most of the game

Posted by: only4mal | February 5, 2008 4:33 PM

And during how many of those championship runs was Fisher the starter?

2000 - Starter, Ron Harper
2001 - Starter, Brian Shaw (for most of the season because Fisher was hurt)
2002 - Starter, Fisher

But that was six years ago? Why not let B-Shaw run point again? He might be as effective as old man Fisher.

Posted by: Lakers Ain't All That | February 5, 2008 4:44 PM

Fisher isnt an all star caliber player but he is a leader, something 90% of the teams in the NBA lack. He has three rings and is looking to add some more.Stop hating already!

Posted by: AreAllWizardFansStupid? | February 5, 2008 5:02 PM

Fisher does exactly what he needs to do. Jackson only wants him to "manage the game", to steal a football cliche. Jackson trusts him, Kobe trusts him & he doesn't make many turnovers. He gets the ball where it needs to be. No one thinks he is a superstar. He's not a scrub either. Fisher is the Trent Dilfer of the NBA.

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 5:07 PM

"Did anyone see Gilbert's Drama Baby Mama, Laura at the game on Sunday. She was in section 118, with her mother from California. I guess she came with her to help take care of those two kids that Gilbert seems to avoid that responsibility :).. He disappeared after the the firt half and didn't return..
She sat there quietly trying to entertain the 11 month old boy.

Posted by: | February 5, 2008 02:21 PM "

LOL!

I thought she was back in Cali. To me, it sounds like she might bring a world of hurt to Gilby. Abe might have to ban her from the Arena. Gilby might have to file a restraining order.

She sounds like the vindictive type, and I'm sure she wasn't happy when the Post reported that Gilby was out with Mya.

Posted by: DC Man88 | February 5, 2008 5:07 PM

If Fisher is so good, why did Shaq fight so hard to get past-his-prime Gary Payton there a few years ago? I don't know. Fisher has to show me he can be a point guard who can still bring it. Dude is 33.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 5:32 PM

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Post clearly wants Michael working on other NBA news and Ivan working on the Wiz beat. So why are they both on the Wiz blog?

Give Michael his own NBA blog just like Mark Maske has his own NFL blog, and be done with it.

Posted by: barno | February 5, 2008 03:38 PM



Barno - Although the title says Wizards Insider, if you read the tag at top of this page, it says "The latest NBA news from Ivan Carter and Michael Lee".

Ivan reports mainly on the Wizards and gives us great inside stuff about the team, players, Coaches, and Management; While Michael provides news from around the rest of the League...

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, the Wizards play in a league called the National Basketball Associaton (NBA for short) - therefore ANY AND ALL news about the NBA, it's teams, players, Coaches, trades, roster moves, injuries, etc... directly or indirectly affect the Wizards.

Posted by: Rook | February 5, 2008 5:33 PM

Why are we even arguing about whether or not Derek Fisher is championship caliber point guard?

He has rings, so he is a champion. That doesnt make him a good point guard or a bad one.

Derek Fisher has had a decent career and has been on some good teams, so maybe he is more lucky than good. Just ask Robert Horry if he is a great power forward or kinda lucky. Ask Karl Malone if he was a average power forward or if he got a little unlucky.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 6:15 PM

The fact that the team Fisher played for last season got worse when he left and the team he went to got better when he arrived isn't just a matter of luck. Neither is the fact that Horry's won titles with every team he's played on for more than one season.

Are these guys great players? No, but they're topnotch role players who know how to help teams win.

Posted by: kalo | February 5, 2008 6:43 PM

Derek Fisher is a halfway decent guard who can sometimes hit the open spot up jumper....nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: DC Man88 | February 5, 2008 7:01 PM

You're right the Jazz through 49 games are 31-18 this year and were 32-17 last year.

My guess here is that the Jazz have played the 6th toughest schedule so far and they played the 21st easiest schedule last year makes up for the 1 game deficit.

The Lakers through 46 games are 30-16 this year and were 28-18 last year through the same amount of games.

I tend to think that the emergence of Andrew Bynum as the reason why the Lakers are 2 games better this year.

Derek Fisher has had a solid career and has helped his teams win some championships but Kalo, make sure you have an argument before you spit out garbage.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 7:09 PM

How come the game is not on tv tonight. It says CSN+ but that has espn news on right now. Can some one please help.

Thanks

Posted by: jjed56 | February 5, 2008 7:21 PM

AD isn't a great point guard either, but he brings veteran savvy and leadership, doesn't turn the ball over much, makes the right passes, hits the occasional timely jumper, and helps steady the whole team. That's exactly what Derek brings. Derek had a lot to do with getting Lakers past San Antonio in 2004 and getting Utah past a sizzling hot Warrior team last year in the playoffs. And he's one of the classiest guys in the league, and takes care of the players union to boot. Why would anyone want to diss this guy?

The man's a good enough point for the greatest coach and player in the league, but not for some of the esteemed basketball experts on this site.

Posted by: Prazak | February 5, 2008 7:38 PM

jjed56,
If you have Cox cable it is on the Cox cable channel, which is channel 11 for me here in Virginia Beach. Espn News is shown on MSN channel 39 down here, so it would be a totally different channel. Hope that helps.

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 7:45 PM

No one is dissing the man Derek Fisher, just varying opinions on his talent level.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 7:51 PM

I just finished counting the fans watching this game in Philly...

572

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 7:59 PM

jjed56 Do you have comcast? I am having the same problem....so disappointing. I am trying call right now but its busy. ON NBA coast to coast it said CARON got hurt.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 5, 2008 8:04 PM

Caron is fine... he rode the bike while being subbed... playing right now

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 8:05 PM

Are the Wizards planning on getting back on defense at some point tonight?

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 8:44 PM

Alright... Caron isnt fine...

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 8:54 PM

"Derek Fisher has had a solid career and has helped his teams win some championships"

Which was exactly the point I was making. Apparently my use of two syllable words confused you.

"...but Kalo, make sure you have an argument before you spit out garbage."

The only garbage I see is what dribbles to the floor every time you open your mouth. I made a civil observation. You didn't agree? No problem. All you had to do was say so. But the insults are uncalled for. But if that's the way you want to take it, I'll be happy to oblige, ***hole.

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 9:05 PM

You get insulted by me calling your argument garbage?

You are very sensitive chica...

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 9:10 PM

Only two things really offend me: ignorance and hypocrisy. You're two for two, daisy. Keep swinging.

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 9:13 PM

And the fact that you called my argument garbage immediately after agreeing with the very point I was making doesn't exactly shine the light too bright;y on you.

Posted by: kalorama | February 5, 2008 9:14 PM

1. Caron got re-injured his hip
2. Wizards gave up an unbelieveable amount of points off of easy dunks & lay ups
3. Wizards blew a healthy 4th quarter lead again
4. Wizards couldn't close out the freakin Sixers

Bad, bad game. When the Wizards were leading, it was only because Stevenson & Mason were on fire from 3 point land. The lack of hustle to get back on defense is esp disturbing. Look out below, this could be an ugly road trip.

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 9:31 PM

Tough loss. Was it just a coincidence that when BTH went to the bench thats when the sixers made the run. He didn't return back until they were already behind by 6 by that time the momentum already shifted. EJ waited too long to put him back (plus the injury to CB). Am I watching a different game but I think BH was having a very good game.

That's my opinion. I hope that the "know it all" guys here won't get offended.

Posted by: Fortune Teller | February 5, 2008 9:35 PM

Les BouleS are way undermanned. Too many guys getting hurt, and during a sideline interview with Gilby, Gilby said he can't even run yet!!!!

Posted by: DC Man88 | February 5, 2008 9:38 PM

First of all, my argument wasnt about whether or not Fisher is good or bad, my argument was with your conclusion that DF is the difference in LA's and Utah's 2006 and 2007 seasons.

We're talking about 1 and 2 game differences with far more convincing evidence pointing towards other reasons for the meager improvements/losses other than DF.

Get a hold of yourself dude. You pontificate your holier than thou opinions in here all the time like they are gospel. I point out a weak arguemnt and you cry and want to fight like someone stepped on your new white sneakers. Dont be such a pansy.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 9:38 PM

this loss bodes very, very bad. looking at an extended losing streak right now.

as far as fisher goes... i've always considered him one of the upper-crust role players. i'd prefer him to AD (though I like AD just fine.) great teams collect a bunch of higher-quality role players; the lakers are stocked with them right now.

Posted by: andy | February 5, 2008 9:45 PM

does anybody think we should just sit caron for the next 5 and take an 0-5 streak here?

Posted by: andy | February 5, 2008 9:46 PM

We might not have a choice Andy.

Posted by: JSchon | February 5, 2008 9:50 PM

does anybody think we should just sit caron for the next 5 and take an 0-5 streak here?

Posted by: andy | February 5, 2008 09:46 PM
-------------------------------------------
Yes, I do. After seeing what Caron looked like tonight I'm not sure that sitting him would doom the Wizards to 0-5. Blatche was a non-factor off the bench again, he just plays much better when he starts. I think they should sit Caron until after the break and start Blatche.

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 9:56 PM

Good point JSchon.

Posted by: Dude | February 5, 2008 9:57 PM

STUPID Playing at the end ! Stupid Stupid ! Sure the shots weren't falling, but how about attacking the glass more! Why keep settling for 3's when the shots aren't falling? Is that what Coach EJ is telling them to do during the timeouts!? Come on, if you are down by 5, you need a 2 and a 3 (plus a stop) to tie it up. Take the 2 if it is there. Even late, Daniels should not have passed up the easy layup! stupid I say ! of course, the post game comments won't admit that. Maybe Ivan will ask this obvious question about why they took all those shots. anybody want to guess EJ answer ?

Posted by: newguy | February 5, 2008 10:01 PM

If Fisher really cared about his teams, he would have asked the Jazz to trade him to somewhere to a place that could care for his daughter instead of being asked to be released. The Jazz got nothing in return. The Jazz probably thought that he wasn't going to play this season to be with his daughter. A sheep in wolf's clothing.

Posted by: Nick | February 6, 2008 1:19 AM

is gasol gonna play the 4 and bynum the 5?

Posted by: drew | February 6, 2008 4:56 AM


I can't believe people are questioning Fisher's choice to prioritize his family first before him. His integrity has never been qustioned all his life. Going back to the Lakers was only a second thought for him. The Wizards are not that good. They are just in the East that is why their record is such. I think the players don't even like each other and their leader is an egomaniac. They should have competed for the Gasol sweepstakes and gave up any player Memphis wanted. Their coach is overrated and their owner has flipflopped in his desire to truly get all star players. Their immediate need for years now is an all star center-it is now a team of forwards.

Posted by: sourgrapes | February 6, 2008 11:41 AM

A healthy Bynum makes the lakers a deadly force. Bynum will bring boards, blocks, and toughness in the paint. Gasol has capabilities to knock down that 15-18 jumpshot(which is perfect in the triangle offense, next to his passing). Odom can now play more consistent being the third option and playing his natural position. Kobe is Kobe. Fisher is the anchorman. The bench is one of the most productive in the league. Icing on the cake, Phil Jackson has NINE RINGS, he knows how to win. IF that doesnt equal championship, I dont know what does.

Posted by: B | February 6, 2008 5:23 PM

"If Fisher really cared about his teams, he would have asked the Jazz to trade him to somewhere to a place that could care for his daughter instead of being asked to be released. The Jazz got nothing in return. The Jazz probably thought that he wasn't going to play this season to be with his daughter. A sheep in wolf's clothing.

Posted by: Nick | February 6, 2008 01:19 AM "

I agree wholeheartedly with regard to Fisher.

Keep in mind though, the Jazz got the better end of swindles because they signed Boozer to a big contract after he reneged on a promise based on release from the Cavs.

Posted by: Rayful Edmond III | February 7, 2008 4:14 PM

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