Derek Fisher: 2010-11 Exit Interview

As has been the case in recent years, Derek Fisher’s numbers went up as his playing time increased in the postseason, his 10 games bringing averages of 8.2 points on 42.7 percent shooting, 41.2 percent from three, with 3.6 assists, 2.7 boards and 1.4 steals in 32.5 minutes. In starting all 82 regular season games for the sixth consecutive season, Fisher averaged 28 minutes to score 6.8 points with 2.7 assists, 1.9 boards and 1.2 steals while shooting 38.9 percent and 39.6 percent from three to lead the team.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Intro: “My thoughts are plenty, most of them not good. I just really never imagined being in this situation, speaking to you guys under these circumstances. It definitely hurts. This one will be with us a while.” While other losses hurt, like 2008 in the Finals, Fisher said it particularly hurts to go out this early with such a talented team that believed it would win it all again. He’s hoping that it ultimately becomes a positive with everyone really being forced to look into the mirror.

- On if the team’s capable of getting back to the Finals: Yes. I’d take the same exact group of guys and line them up, lace them up again. We’d get the job done, that’s what I believe can and will happen. It’s no disrespect to Dallas or any of the other teams still (playing), but with the same group of guys — obviously our coach would be different — there are some things that we can do as players to be better.

- On where it went wrong: “This wasn’t an overnight thing. It happened over time. To try and sum it up, some of it is a part of making the run that we’ve made for the last three or four seasons, playing 400-plus basketball games in four years, and just how difficult that task alone is to try and bring the focus, the energy, the effort, the concentration and the intensity to all those games in such a short period of time. In a sense, we were set up to have a fall at some point, but I don’t think anybody imagined or envisions us falling in this way. It was a tough year from the beginning, starting in Europe for training camp. Without making any excuses, I think Phil touched on it even then. It was very difficult to have a training camp, to lay down the foundation that it takes to be a championship team, (especially) with so many new guys (on the bench).”

- And a key quote that hints at how L.A. may have faltered: “I don’t think we were really able to build and grow as a team.There was a point where we just weren’t getting better, we were just the same, and you have to get better in this league.”

- On finishing on this sour note with Phil Jackson: “That probably bothers guys more than anything. That probably hurts more than our own individual circumstances. He deserved to go out much better than this.”

- Fisher was asked if he considered retirement at all, and was very quick to say no: “There’s not a question about whether I’m coming back or not. There isn’t anything tangible that I measure my success by that tells me that today is the day I’m not supposed to be playing basketball. I’m not even close to that. Every bit of me is excited and looking forward to the future. Great things are born out of defeat, adversity and struggle.”

- Fisher’s fully behind assistant coach Brian Shaw, while acknowledging that it’s Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Buss’s decision about whom to hire as the next coach: “I support Brian 100 percent.”

Fisher on what he will remember most about his time with Phil Jackson: In a very, very short version, that basketball is only a metaphor for life. As bad as this hurts, and as much as we like to talk about the game and the stories and the articles and all the attention that goes to NBA basketball and the Lakers, at the end of the day this is a very, very small part of real life. That’s what I’ll take from my relationship with him more than anything, is keeping those things in perspective and being able to emotionally balance the things that come with this job, but realizing that it is a job. At the end of the day, it’s the health, safety and security of your loved ones and your friends, the people that you care about that really mean the most. The money, the contracts, the championships, it’ll eventually run out, get dusty, rusty, dry up and go away, but the memories that you have with close friends and family and teammates … those don’t ever go away.”

- Fisher was very forceful with his words defending Pau Gasol, whom he said took way, way too much blame and criticism: “If anything, I regret the fact that I wasn’t able to fully understand it and speak up sooner on his behalf, to say that I think it was ridiculously wrong to assume some of the things that were being assumed and place the burden of how successful we were or were not on his shoulders. That just wasn’t the case. Sometimes it’s comical the idea of how statistics determine whether a guy is really doing his job or not, and I think it was quite unfair for Pau’s statistical output compared to last year or some other time to be stacked up to this year and now, and then say that somehow we didn’t win because he didn’t play well statistically. If you asked the other teams we played against this year, he was there. He was still Pau Gasol. But he, like all of us, just as a team weren’t able to operate as efficiently at that max level the way we’ve become accustomed to.” In short, Fisher wishes he could have done something to make it better for Gasol from a mental/support standpoint, so that all of it could have “just shut up.” Had the Lakers kept winning, Fisher continued, no one would have been blaming someone statistically, citing as an example that Jason Kidd’s shooting percentage from Round 2 won’t be remembered.

- Fisher said it was very much in Andrew Bynum’s character to apologize for his flagrant foul in Game 4 against Dallas: “Andrew is a bright, smart, very intelligent man, and that particular play doesn’t symbolize who he is on whole. He just had that moment of frustration and anger and weakness that got the best of him. We’ve all been in that situation in life sometimes, where you make a decision and it’s too late to take it back, but Andrew’s a guy of high character, and he’ll be OK.” Fisher’s hopeful that he can just let it go now, having apologized, with knowledge that J.J. Barea didn’t suffer any injuries.

- Fisher concluded with a line about Phil Jackson:
“The biggest void regardless of who is coaching next year, what players are back, the biggest void of all will be Phil Jackson not sitting in the high chair. It’s that simple.”