With 3:36 left in the third quarter of L.A.’s Friday evening game against Charlotte, Derek Fisher suffered a sprained left elbow after being tied up with Bobcats center Kwame Brown.
While going after a loose ball, Fisher and Brown locked arms, and Fisher’s elbow on his shooting arm was extended backwards when Brown tried to shake L.A.’s co-captain away.
Fisher went to the locker room after consulting with Lakers Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti, and did not return to the floor.
L.A.’s point guard, the NBA’s current leader in consecutive games played with 475 dating back to April 15, 2005, will be re-evaluated on Saturday to determine his status.
It wasn’t the only news on the injury front on Friday, as reserve Matt Barnes aggravated his knee injury in pregame warmups and stayed in the locker room of what was supposed to be his first time on the court in 25 games.
Obviously, the stakes were just a bit different between Derek Fisher’s key seven-point scoring streak from Wednesday’s early-season road win in Sacramento and his absolutely critical 11-point scoring stretch in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last June.
But there were similarities worthy of comparison, born out of a combination of the defense overreacting to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and Fisher’s confidence/experience/moxy in key situations.
Here’s the play-by-play from last night:
4:09 Fisher grabs a defensive rebound, pushes in transition and draws a foul, converting 1-of-2 free throws to put L.A. up 99-90. 3:35 Fisher drains an open three-pointer, L.A.’s first field goal make since the 7:43 mark, their offense stalled with Sacramento overplaying Gasol and Bryant. 3:17 Fisher strips Carl Landry at the other end and races down to convert an and-1 layup, essentially putting the game out of reach for good at 105-92.
Fisher offered some explanatory thoughts on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility:
I think it’s the recognition of how we’re being defended as well as stepping into those opportunities. From the beginning of the game to the end, if the other team has any smarts they’re going to overplay Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. That’s just the reality of it. From my position and really anybody on our team, you just have to find that balance between playing your game and taking your shots and opportunities but also recognizing who we’re playing against. You play against a team like Sacramento who wants to score in transition, maybe you don’t take some of those shots that you normally take. You play against a team like Portland, who we’re going to play on Sunday, they play really good half court defense so maybe you want to take some good early transition shots. It’s that combination of things that takes place, and last night I was able to get couple that I guess were timely for us.
Lakers point guard Derek Fisher addressed assembled media members for the first time since re-signing with LA on Friday afternoon, taking a quick break from his basketball camp for kids.
You can head over to Lakers.com to view video of Fisher’s comments, in addition to viewing a summary of the comments as listed below:
- Fisher’s opening: “I definitely feel like I made the right decision.”
- As Fish said in his statement, Kobe Bryant played a big role in Fisher’s return to L.A.: “Kobe and I worked extremely hard to be in a position where we are now in our careers. Obviously he’s much more accomplished than I am, but we have a bond that I just didn’t want to break. I think we can lead our team to another championship this season and that was a big motivating factor.”
- On his communication level with Kobe throughout the free agency period: “I told him that I would keep him in the loop in terms of anything that he didn’t know was going on that he’d heard or read … we talked for the most part on a daily basis. I just felt it was important for him to understand my thoughts as the process unfolded so that if I did choose to go somewhere else, if I wanted anybody to understand it fully I wanted him to understand it.”
- Alluding to the offseason recovery periods specifically for Bryant and Andrew Bynum, Fisher said he thought the team could be healthier than it has been in the last two years, which is exciting to him.
- Along those lines, Fisher’s always one to use the offseason to prepare his body for the rigor of an NBA season, and said he began training about nine or ten days ago. “Just waking the body up again after a few weeks off, and starting to key in on some things that I want to improve on this offseason. That’s all I know how to do … I’m right back at it. I’m committed to being the best that I can be. I didn’t sign a three-year contract by accident because I fully expect to continue to help my team in a major way for the next three years.”
- That last quote may have been the most interesting from Fisher on the day, so we asked a follow-up question alluding to the fact that he’s brushed off any talk of retirement for the past two seasons, suggesting he wanted to keep playing for a while, wondering if that was a primary consideration with the contract he signed: “Definitely,” he said. “There was no desire just to sign a one-year contract and do it one year at a time. That’s not how my body feels, that’s not how my passion for helping this team feels, and so, regardless of who we have, what my role is, who’s coaching, whatever the situation is … for me personally I’m working hard to keep getting better. I’ll mend and mesh and adapt my abilities and talents based on the team that we have, and that’s the job we all have to do in the offseason as well as in the season. We have to come together for the common goal, and that’s winning titles.”
- Fisher said he “seriously considered” his other free agency options before ultimately choosing the Lakers based on a few factors including his relationship with Kobe, the community and the city of Los Angeles.
- Fisher touched on the negotiation process with the team, neglecting to use a media-suggested word of “frustration,” and simply saying that he’s been around long enough to know how the process works.
- Generally, Fisher keeps his comments simple about new players out of respect for those that have left, but he did say that he thinks the pieces L.A. was able to add were “key for what we need.”
Black said that an agreement was in place, though the deal has yet to be signed.
Fisher cited his personal relationship with Kobe Bryant in particular in his statement:
At the end of the day, there’s one person I could not turn away from. Kobe Bryant asked me to stay but supported whatever decision I made. He and I have played together for 11 seasons, came into the league together as kids, and has been loyal to me even when others had doubts. We have won five championships together.
I have decided to continue with Kobe, continue with our teammates and the fans of Los Angeles. While this may not be the most lucrative contract I’ve been offered this off season, it is the most valuable. I am confident I will continue to lead this team on and off the court. Let the hunt for six begin…
Per team policy, the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
It’s not that Derek Fisher wouldn’t have been interested in playing Robert Downey Jr.’s role in the “Iron Man” series … he’s just been too busy playing in 413 straight NBA games over the past six regular seasons.
The Lakers guard – set to become a free agent on July 1 – has not missed a game since April 13, 2005, when he was a Golden State Warrior.
L.A.’s co-captain then played in the final three games of that season, every single game in 2005-06 for the Warriors, and every contest between 2007 and 2010 with the Lakers.
“It means a lot to me because it symbolizes the commitment and sacrifice required to come to work every day and be available to your team every day,” said Fisher in his exit interview. “That requires a lot of sacrifice. Some of those hot days in the summer when you could be at the park with the kids or going to lunch with your kids, a lot of times I’m working out. It’s worked out well, and I’ve made an investment.”
It hasn’t been by accident, of course.
Fisher goes through a very specific process to ready his body for the rigors of an NBA season each summer.
“It definitely took some trial and error,” he shared. “I learned from things (like injuries), and every year try to keep pushing the envelope to try and keep myself in the best possible condition in the event that I need to go all the way. I’d rather be prepared to play 38 minutes and carry a heavy load in case I need to.”
Fisher averaged 27.2 minutes per game in 2009-10, his lowest since 21.5 in 2003-04, but upped his PT to 32.8 minutes in the postseason.
For the fifth straight season and seventh time in eight years, Derek Fisher played in all 82 regular season games, then went on to play his best basketball of 2009-10 in the playoffs.
Fisher nailed a dagger three-pointer to beat Utah in Game 3 of Round 2, scored 11 huge points to carry L.A. to a Game 3 win in Boston and hit a game-tying three late in the fourth quarter of L.A.’s Finals-clinching Game 7 victory.
Fisher averaged 7.5 points on 38 percent shooting with 2.5 assists in 27.2 regular season minutes per game, and went up to 10.3 points on 44.8 percent from the field with 2.8 assists in 32.8 postseason minutes.
Below are the highlights of his exit interview:
- (On if he wants to come back): “Yeah. I’ve never mixed any statements or positions about winning and wanting to be associated with winning championships and being on the best team in the NBA. It would definitely be a great opportunity to be in the position to do it again next year. I’ll let that process take care of itself. It’s about a commitment to winning, and I guess it’s hard to quantify that, or put a price on that, but in our business you have to. I don’t think there’s any question about Dr. Buss and his commitment to winning, and Mitch and his commitment to winning. It’s just a matter of sitting down and working out details.”
- (On terms of a deal): “I’m not chasing money. I’m not trying to stretch out a deal artificially.”
- (On not missing a game since APRIL 13, 2005): “It means a lot to me because it symbolizes the commitment and sacrifice required to come to work every day and be available to your team every day. That requires a lot of sacrifice. Some of those hot days in the summer when you could be at the park with the kids or going to lunch with your kids, a lot of times I’m working out. It’s worked out well, and I’ve made an investment … It definitely took some trial and error. I learned from things (like injuries), and every year try to keep pushing the envelope to try and keep myself in the best possible condition in the event that I need to go all the way. I’d rather be prepared to play 38 minutes and carry a heavy load in case I need to.”
- (On players learning from each other, particularly Fisher and Bryant): “Myself and Kobe definitely observe each other’s patterns and behaviors. We’re very influential amongst each other. Things that he’s seen from me that I’ve seen from him and all of our teammates, things we pick up from each other play a huge part in guys pushing themselves beyond what their comfort level might be. I think Andrew’s committment to the team this year probably says that the most, pushing through that injury. Watching Kobe push through his knee problems (likely had to do) with that.”
- To Fisher, starting is something that remains a priority, but he said it’s not necessarily a “deal breaker” in terms of next season.
- Fisher said that his family would like him to come back to the Lakers.
- (On satisfaction for proving skeptics wrong): “For me it feels good to come through no matter what had been or was said throughout the regular season. To be honest I don’t know if I’d like it any other way. Part of the reason why I’m here is because of what I was told I couldn’t do … in high school, in college, that’s what I’ve heard my whole basketball career basically. I guess I’ve developed an ability to just kind of let that be what it is and let people say what they have a right to say.”
- (On if he’ll take calls from other teams on July 1): “I have a responsibility to my family as much as myself to answer (calls from other teams) and have the appropriate conversations and make sure there’s an understanding of the options that are available to us. I would teach my kids that. I’d teach them to make sure they gather all the information and do their due diligence before they make an important decision. I’ll go through that process, but I won’t make a decision before I know exactly where I stand here.”
With L.A.’s Game 1 victory over Utah in the Western Conference Semi’s, Phil Jackson surpassed Pat Riley for the most playoff wins in Lakers history (103), then boosted his all-time postseason record to 215-93 (.698) with a Game 2 win. The 215 wins and .698 winning percentage are the most, and highest, respectively, of any NBA coach in playoff history.
Last season, when L.A. beat Orlando in the Finals, Jackson leapfrogged legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach for most championships won by a head coach, in addition to passing fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell (11) for most championships won by a player/coach (Jackson won two as a player for the Knicks). Furthermore, if the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals in 2010, it will be Jackson’s 13th trip to the final round, tying him with NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman for most finals appearances in any major U.S. professional sport.
Derek Fisher seemed to have Jackson’s unprecedented success in mind when detailing his personal opinion that Jackson has not, and does not get the credit of which he’s deserving.
Here’s what Fisher had to say when asked about Jackson after Wednesday’s practice:
I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves, because he’ll forever be – I guess unfortunately – saddled with, if you want to call it that, his past accomplishments. ‘Oh yeah, he had Michael Jordan, so that’s why he won. Yeah, he had Shaq, he had Kobe, so OK.’
I don’t understand that logic whatsoever, to be honest. I was taught that it’s more difficult to try and take talent or people that are supposed to be the elite and get them to buy into doing the things that need to be done to be successful as opposed to the less talented, and getting them to achieve maybe a little bit more than they would without you … but what else would they do?
It’s always hard for me when they throw around all these names of who is doing a great job coaching and the guy just wins championships and wins 70 percent of his games, but he’s always way down the list of people that are supposed to be good coaches.
Phil Jackson shared a fun anecdote during his post-practice presser with assembled media after L.A.’s Monday practice.
“We were just in the player’s (lounge) and Jordan (Farmar) walked in with a photo of his sixth grade class, and Fisher was a speaker in the class,” said L.A.’s coach. “That’s a veteran for you.”
Fisher begrudgingly verified the story.
“Only because there is photographic evidence,” he quipped. “It is a true story, yes. I work with a guy that was in the sixth grade when I first got into this business … it’s pretty humbling.”
Fisher was of course aware that Jackson shared the story as a way to praise his starting point guard for continuing to make valuable contributions despite being one of the league’s oldest players (35).
“I think he’s done a remarkable job of staying attached to the speed, the quickness, the physical nature of this game and how to recover between games,” said Jackson. “It’s not an easy task for a guy that’s his age.”
Fisher has saved his best play for the playoffs this season, shooting 43 percent from the field and making 14-of-30 three-pointers (46.7 percent) to average 10.2 points with 3.3 assists in the First Round against Oklahoma City, and opening the Second Round with 10 points, three assists and a game-high five steals against Utah.