Fish at a Fair Price

Kurt —  July 4, 2007

He has a prominent place in Lakers fans’ hearts as one of those key role-playing veterans on championship teams. He is classy. He is Mr. .04. He’s got rings and he earned them. The fact he would walk away from $21 million to make sure his daughter got the best care possible says volumes about the man.

Lakers fans — including this one — have a soft spot for Derek Fisher, which is why we like the idea him coming back to Los Angeles. It’s easy to picture him as a stabilizing influence in the locker room and as a veteran tutor to Jordan Farmar and Jarvis Crittenton. He could share time in the backcourt with those two for a few years and help fill in a big need for the Lakers.

But because we are so fond of him, we Laker fans view him through rose colored glasses (or maybe whatever color those glasses Bono wears are). He has shortcomings and we forget the frustration he caused us because of the highlights.

First, he’s not a quality starting PG in the league. He started one season for the Lakers (02-03) and the next summer the Lakers were looking for a new PG to start. When Golden State brought Fish in and paid him to be their starter, it wasn’t long before they were looking for a new PG. Last year he had a PER of 11.4 — well below the league average — and he shot just 30.8% from three. That PER is slightly lower than his career average but pretty close to what he did a lot of years when he was with the Lakers the first time — but he wasn’t a starter then, either. He brings a lot of great energy and veteran presence off the bench, which is valuable. But he is not a starter.

He is 33. Last year’s playoffs showed he still has some gas in the tank, but this is the age when players numbers generally start to decline. And last year, most of his numbers fell from the year before — eFG% from 47.6% to 41.8%, 3pt % from 39.7% to 30.8%, PER from 14.8 to 11.4. You can expect that his numbers may fall again. And the smart thing to do would be to keep his minutes down in the regular season (say, 20 per game) so he has legs left come playoff time.

Finally, in an off-season where the Lakers are looking for a defensive stopper, Fish is not that. He drove Laker fans nuts the first time around because he could not stop the quicker PGs in the league, and if anything those guards have gotten faster in the last few years. Last season, opposing PGs shot 50.4% (eFG%) and had a PER of 16.9 against Fish (for comparison, Smush’s numbers were 46.8% and 18, guys shot better against Fish but they did everything else better against Smush).

Then there’s my concern that Fisher’s agent told the LA Times Fish wants the full MLE. That’s a lot of money tied up for a backup PG.

I want the best for Fisher and his family. If the Children’s hospital, the Doheny Eye Institute, and/or the Jules Stein Eye Institute (thanks to drrayeye for the names in a comment) can offer the best for his daughter, then I hope he comes to Los Angeles regardless of basketball. As a father, I can’t imagine what he is going through but I understand going to any length to make sure child gets the best.

On the court, I want to see Derek Fisher in Laker colors next season, but not at any cost. He is not a savior. I picture him being the first guard off the bench behind Farmar. And I think three years in the neighborhood of $10 million (about half the MLE) is fair for the player Fish is today. And if he comes to LA, and starts a fund to help raise awareness of his daughter’s condition, I’ll be at the front of the line to post a link (or whatever is needed) and make a donation.