If Lakers Call, Will Derek Fisher Answer?
During the span of over 13 NBA seasons, the name Derek Fisher was synonymous with Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard. In total, over 900 of his 1,182 career games have been played draped in purple and gold, with the Lakers winning each of their last five NBA Titles with Fisher starting at point.
Meanwhile, the 2012-13 edition of the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled mightily out of the gate and have to be considered one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments to start the season. With Steve Nash on the shelf, the Lakers have had to rely on unproven players at the point like Darius Morris and Chris Duhon to run the show. Even when Steve Blake returns from injury, it’s doubtful that L.A. features a backup point guard that’s the caliber of Fisher – even at 38 years old.
Simply put, Los Angeles has lacked the type of veteran leadership that helped them to secure an NBA-high five championships since 2000.
Starting to get a feel for where I’m going with this?
After straining the patellar tendon in his right knee this past Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, Fisher asked for, and has been granted, his release from the Dallas Mavericks. Sources close to HOOPSWORLD say the wear and tear on his body, stress on his family and the fact that Fisher feels like he has nothing left to accomplish were the main reasons for his exit from Dallas.
“In [last] Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia, I suffered an injury to my patellar tendon,” Fisher said via an official statement. “The recovery time will be approximately two weeks. With this news and the difficulty I have been having being away from my family, I have asked the organization to waive me so I can return home. [Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban has been extremely supportive and has granted me this request. I cannot say enough good things about this organization. From Mark, to Coach [Rick] Carlisle, to the players on the Mavericks’ team, I sincerely thank them for the opportunity.
“I have made decisions in the past, leaving money and opportunity on the table, and I will need to do that again. My family is my priority and that is where I choose to be. I won’t close the possibility that I will play again, however for now my family and being close to them remains the priority.”
While that all sounds reasonable enough, there’s no doubt that the Mavericks recent slide out of playoff contention with Dirk Nowitzki on the shelf was a lingering factor. By all accounts, Fisher joined the Mavericks with hopes of steadying the ship and providing just enough veteran influence and spark to keep Dallas afloat with Nowitzki on the mend.
Even though Fisher appears set in his decision now, let’s be real: saying no to a floundering Mavericks squad lacking it’s best player is much easier than saying no when Kobe Bryant gives you a call. This is true especially as Fisher recuperates from an injury that’s expected to keep him out just a couple of weeks. Having a couple of months to heal and get back into game shape could be just what the doctor ordered to renew his passion to play the game.
The Lakers traded Fisher to the Houston Rockets last season on March 15. Initially, it seemed L.A. wouldn’t be eligible to re-sign their former championship point guard until exactly one year to the day on March 15, 2013. However, Fisher didn’t pick up his 2012-13 option prior to being bought out by the Rockets, which means that Fisher could’ve returned to the Lakers as early as July 1, when free agency began. If Fisher were to sign in the next month or two, this would give Fisher just enough time to adjust to being Nash’s backup in time for the Lakers to (presumably) make a significant playoff run.
Let’s not also forget that Fisher and former teammate Bryant are still very close, which could make a call from Bryant asking him to rejoin the squad very difficult to pass up. A personal call from Bryant would be a huge selling point, while the Lakers, if healthy, are still expected to be a championship contender once they get out all of the kinks. By the time Fisher is ready to make a decision, everyone around the NBA will have a solid idea of just how far the Lakers can go if Nash – who re-joined the Lakers in the starting lineup this past Saturday – remains healthy.
Of course, on the other hand, Fisher and the Lakers as an organization didn’t exactly part ways amicably last season and, while he can make all of the glowing declarations he wants, there has to be some animosity there for a team that traded him to the floundering Rockets. Plain and simple: L.A. dumped Fisher last season with hopes that Ramon Sessions could provide the much-needed spark that Fisher couldn’t from the point.
Let’s also not forget the way Fisher has played during his time on the court, which has been below-average at best. In nine starts for the Mavericks, although featuring a higher scoring average than he’s put up since 2009, Fisher shot a putrid 35 percent from the field. This after shooting a career-low 34 percent last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in similar minutes.
If the Lakers are desperate, which, judging by their start to the season, they may very well be, Fisher could be getting a call to re-join his former team as a key backup to a possible championship run. Deciding to do so at his age and skill level may be an entirely different story but, given his options, that’s the best shot Fisher has at getting back into NBA action.
Then again, Los Angeles could decide they are happy with the players backing up Nash and could be done with Fisher completely. Time will only tell how this situation will play out but, right now, both sides could be on each other’s radar as the season unfolds.