Derek Fisher wants another ring. He’s become accustomed to competing for titles so being traded to a team battling for a playoff spot was like Kathy Bates rocking a speedo – it wasn’t the right fit. Thus the Houston Rockets were more than happy to pay for Fisher to seek employment elsewhere. Don’t get it confused though. On the surface it would appear as if Fisher’s desire to win was what ultimately led to his buy out but the reality can be found on the game tape.
Had the Rockets had some use for Fisher then there is no way they’d allow him to walk away having paid off a contract the Lakers generated. Can’t think of too many other professions that work in such a manner but such is the business of hoops.
While Mitch Kupchak will forever receive mixed reactions whenever he enters any establishment in Los Angeles from here out, the fact is he made the absolute right move to trade Fisher.
The time was long overdue for the Lakers to end the relationship with one of their most celebrated players. Like all athletes Fisher was never going to let go until his fingers were pried off the steering wheel. Once upon a time D-Fish had a steady hand on the wheel. He was never the engine in any of L.A.’s title teams but his calming presence was very instrumental in guiding the ship.
That was then. This is now.
Now Fisher is looking for another ring. Can’t blame the guy. Wouldn’t we all love to get a pink slip one day and a job offer from a Fortune 500 company the next? Thing is usually those companies are looking for more than a mascot.
With all due respect, that’s what Fisher had become in Los Angeles. No different than what the Chicken had become in San Diego or what Chuck Liddell was to the UFC – a mascot.
Fisher’s legacy kept him employed as a Laker. He had no business being a starting point guard any longer. Even being a role player was a stretch.
Kupchak caught flack for saying his decision to move Fisher was based on saving Mike Brown from having to make tough decisions. Funny affect this thing called the truth can have on an individual.
Truth is Fisher sees himself as a player capable of contributing to a title contender. Perhaps as a coach. Not as a player. Not any longer.
Truth is Fisher would have been buried at the end of the bench behind Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions. Coach Brown had no more use for a point guard that can’t defend, wasn’t setting the table for the rest of the offense and could no longer consistently hit open jumpers.
Truth is Kupchak did right by getting value for Fisher now instead of being forced to do something even more drastic after another embarrassing playoff showing.
With the way this season unfolded, Fisher got a few more moments of glory. He was allowed to leave Los Angeles as a starter for a team contending in the West, his legacy still fresh in all of our minds despite his continued struggles.
Had Fisher finished the season with yet another torching in the playoffs it would have created a much worse scenario for his departure. Kupchak would have had no choice but to release Fisher. The legacy still in tact but our lasting image would be however he and the Lakers went out of the postseason this time around. The divorce would have been much uglier because there was no debut of Ramon Sessions to look forward to. It would have been nothing but headlines and gossip combined with angry callers flooding the L.A. sports talk scene amid the lamenting of Vic the Brick.
It short it would have been a mess.
No matter how unfortunate it might have been to see Fisher shipped off without so much as a thank you call, it would have been even more painful to go through all of this during the offseason. Fisher’s play had created dilemma no one in the Laker organization wanted to deal with. A beloved family member that was all too content to live in the basement without contributing much to the household any longer.
This is a business after all. I realize that you can’t put a price tag on leadership but you can certainly find value in a capable NBA point guard. Derek was no longer the latter. Like everyone in L.A. I wish him nothing but the best. Maybe there is some team out there willing to give him a seat on their championship bus because that’s about all he’s going to find, a comfortable chair with a nice view of the game. The Lakers were kind enough to give him an actual role, too bad he no longer fit the part.