Lakers Continue Transition with Fisher Deal
In addition to trading Luke Walton and Jason Kapono to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ramon Sessions, the Los Angeles Lakers made the bold move of dealing long-term starting point guard Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets for center/forward Jordan Hill.
Hill is in his third year after getting picked eighth in the 2009 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. The 6’10″ big-man was dealt to the Rockets in 2010, staring 18 games over a season and a half.
Jordan’s contract option was not taken by the Rockets during the season, making him a free agent this summer.
The Lakers also send the Dallas Mavericks’ 2012 first-round pick to Houston to facilitate the deal.
It’s a major move for LA, similar to sending Lamar Odom to the Mavericks this past offseason. Fisher, like Odom, was one of the team’s lead voices in the locker room.
Other than a brief stint in Golden State and Utah, Derek has been Kobe Bryant’s backcourt partner since they came into the league together as rookies in 1996.
Over the past week, one NBA executive had mentioned the Lakers were looking to move Derek but it wasn’t clear how serious they’d push to get it done.
Fisher’s greatest value was as a clutch shooter. He has a long list of huge moments from his game-saving three-pointers against the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals to 0.4 against the San Antonio Spurs. His huge fourth quarter in Boston against the Celtics in the Finals may be the reason why the Lakers would go on to win the series.
Still, the Lakers have turned the page on the past. They’ve let go of almost any tie to the Phil Jackson/triangle era.
Recently the players had lobbied Coach Mike Brown to reinstitute some of their principles from their former offense. A source says Fisher was a big part of that movement.
Through 43 games, Derek had struggled to adjust to Brown’s offense, shooting 38.3% from the field and 32.4% from three. With Sessions coming in, there was no elegant way to demote Fisher to the bench.
The Lakers had also tried to move reserve point guard Steve Blake, possibly for Michael Beasley in a three-team trade with the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s difficult to say at this point if the Lakers would have moved both Fisher and Blake, acquiring more than one point guard. There was also a variation of the deal that could have seen Fisher land in Portland instead of Blake.
The Lakers still possess their trade exception from the Odom trade ($8.9 million). It appears they weren’t willing to take on Beasley’s contract, which would have come with a sizable luxury tax bite, just to rent him for the next few months.
To make Beasley a restricted free agent, he’ll need to receive an $8.2 million qualifying offer. That’s probably more than any team would be willing to pay. He’s likely to become unrestricted this summer with the Wolves.
Fisher has a player option on his $3.4 million for next season and, as a Laker, was expected to finish out his contract. Instead the Lakers will, in all likelihood, start Sessions and work Hill into the rotation behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
With Fisher and Walton gone, the Lakers still have their Amnesty Clause should they decide to part ways with someone like Metta World Peace. The team is making clear moves to try and restructure their payroll.
Hill is an athletic big who has rebounded well when given the minutes. He may be able to help the Lakers this season.
Naturally the fans, and certainly the players, will need to adjust to life without Fisher. It may be the right basketball move for the team but it’s going to be a difficult adjustment without Derek’s locker room presence.
Note that trades aren’t final until players pass physicals. It’s unclear if Fisher will fill a rotation role with the Rockets or be bought out. If he is cut loose, expect him to link up with another playoff team.
The Lakers play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Los Angeles.
(The team has yet to officially announced the trade.)