2009-10 Player Review: Derek Fisher

Phillip Barnett —  August 26, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher shoots over Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo during the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2010 .  REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In 1996, there is no way the Lakers could have known that they were drafting a future five time NBA Champion, the future president of the player’s union and one of the most stand-up guys in all of sports. Considering Derek Fisher’s roller coaster season, the Lakers still don’t know exactly what to expect from their point guard in 2010.

For Fish, it was one of the more forgettable regular seasons of his career. He recorded his lowest scoring average since the 99/00 season, assisted at his lowest rate since his rookie season and had the worst shooting percentage of his career — yet he continued to start over the likes of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown. He played in 82 games for the fifth season in a row and finished the season as an NBA champion for the fifth time in his career. The story line that loomed over his head like a personal rain cloud this season weren’t any of these things, but how we reacted to them as the season treaded along. It was more than obvious that Fisher’s physical capabilities were on the decline, and we (yes, myself included) made sure that the blogospehere knew it.

National columnists, beat writers, online journalists, bloggers and those who simply comment on blogs relentlessly stoned Fish with our words that berated the decline of his shooting, passing, jumping, running and intelligence for the better part of the 82 game season. These are the rated G versions of the comments made about Derek Fisher’s game.

* “Fisher is beyond awful, and cannot even outplay opposing reserve guards.”

* “Maybe because we know it’s beating a dead horse at this point (no offense Fish) but it’s kind of amazing how we always step around the pink elephant that is our PG situation. It boggles the mind how we could have just opted not to address this massive Achilles heel at any point in the off season before the trade deadline. We couldn’t at least go the Smush Parker route and sign a d-leaguer for the minimum? Mustafa Shakur. Morris Almond (who’s actually a SG/SF but could at least knock down a 3). Just sayin’”

* “The tempo is set by each team taking it to the hole in the dike, Fisher. When teams get out to big leads it is almost always penetration up the middle and wide open shots. This latest yelling match with Sasha and Shaw may even shorten are already talent short bench. I don’t even want to see what Brooks does to Fisher tonight and Paul after that. It is very tough to win 4 on 5. They other 4 guys have to play great games to carry around the caboose. This game they were too tired and could not recover from the defensive liabilities of Fisher. To beat the Lakers you do it with speed, youth, doubling Kobe and attacking our hole in the dike. Every scout in the league has figered it out. Except Phil that is. The legend of D Fish is now haunting me. I think it might be the ghost of Smush Parker!!!!!!!!!!!”

* “Another Laker game, another poor shooting night from Fisher. The man knows how to talk good game but doesn’t play that way.”

* “The rate at which Derek Fisher fails makes me want to punch through walls.”

* “And for those who complain stop with the Fish bashing. Not as long as he continues to hurt this team and make a mockery of the point guard position.”

* “Someone mentioned it in the game thread, but it bears repeating because I’m just flabbergasted. Fish’s 13 shots were more than Lamar, Drew, Pau, or Artest took. All of those players shot more than 50% from the field tonight. That is simply unacceptable. Fish should be one of our LAST options on offense.”

Not one of these comments came from a non-Lakers fan – giving credence to the saying, with fans like these, who needs the Celtics? I was even included in that bunch, and I’ve been one of Fisher’s biggest supporters throughout the years. It was hard not to blame all that was going bad on the aging point guard, and we used him as a way to justify the Lakers sub-par play down the stretch. But we all know, that it wasn’t JUST Fish as evidenced by the Lakers post season run. Yes, Fish picked up his game in the post season, but so did the whole team. Andrew Bynum was better, Farmar and Brown were better, Gasol was better and Kobe was MUCH better. This was a Lakers team that was awful for many of their games past the all-star break, not a point guard.

The thing is, Fisher is one of the most dedicated basketball players in the league. He understands the game, he understands his teammates and he understands his coach. The Lakers run a system that allows him to be effective without all of the physical abilities that some of the better point guards in the league have, and it takes an extremely intelligent and dedicated basketball player to take full advantage of that. In his exit interview, Fish addressed how much hard work he puts into making sure he can go out and give the Lakers everything he has night in and night out:

“It’s a lot of sacrifice. On one of those hot days in the summer when you could be at the park with the kids or, you know, going to lunch with your wife, a lot of times I’m working out. A lot of times I could be sleeping in or staying out late, I’m doing the opposite and it’s worked out well. I feel like I’ve made an investment more than giving something away. … Every year I just keep pushing the envelope to find ways to keep myself in the best possible shape and condition in the event that I do need to go all the way. With our team, it’s not always required of me, but I’d rather be prepared to play 38 minutes and carry a heavy load even though that’s not what I really have to do.”

Considering his career, saying, “it’s worked out well” is an understatement. Not only is he a five time NBA Champion, but he has some of the most memorable moments in recent Lakers history, including scoring 11 for the Lakers in the last nine minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals to give the Lakers a much needed 2-1 lead over the Celtics. It seemingly happens every year with this guy. No matter how many times Derek Fisher has been counted out, he’s left a positive stamp on the season – and it’s hard to be mad at that.

“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.”

-Derek Fisher

Phillip Barnett

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29 responses to 2009-10 Player Review: Derek Fisher

  1. Nice write up, Phillip.

    I think that many Laker fans are at peace with Fisher, and even his three year contract. Surely, the addition of one proven Steve Blake doesn’t hurt. If Fish can finally get his minutes down below 30, we may see a reinvigorated guard focusing more on peak performance throughout the season, pre- and post-April.

  2. Fisher’s game 3 final’s performance and game 7 fourth quarter 3, basically has ended the debate on Derek Fisher’s clutchness and value to the team. Having said that I don’t remember a Laker (not even Smush) playing meaningful regular season minutes and having as poor of a year on both ends of the court.

    I think it’s fair to acknowledge his playoff performance and also acknowledge how poor of a season he had.

  3. That was a very fair post on Derek’s play and as the first guy to lead the charge on the anti Derek bandwagon over 2 years ago now (even before it became so popular)… I feel the need to again hand out the ultimate praise one can give to a struggling role player.

    After having one of the worst years a starting PG has had in recent memory while playing on 35 year old legs all season and even struggling with his outside shot significantly in the playoffs (33% vs UTA, 30% vs PHO) and even more in the NBA Finals (20% vs BOS) what makes Derek Fisher the player so special is his ability to as a role player step up out of all of that filth for one big shot.

    But in Boston with the season really almost on the line as the last 5 minutes began to tick down Fish didn’t just stand by the three point line open as Kobe or Gasol demanded a double team… he repeatedly created his own shot time and time again when the other Lakers simple couldn’t. To me it will go down as the most brilliant 4th quarter Finals performance by a role player of all time.

    I really can’t think of another player who could be battered and basically beaten by opposing players and press alike so badly and for so long… and turn it on the way he did. Say what you want about him as a player (and I have) but as far as heart and dare I say balls… Fisher is second to no man.

  4. Phillip,
    While you were talking about how poorly our team played during the regular season – you were not blaming it all on Fisher – you failed to mention that this Laker team still finished as the #1 seed in the Western Conference and #3 seed in the entire NBA.

    Since that is how we view our play during the regular season last year and since we all feel we have noticeably improved our bench this year — just think how the opposing coaches are looking at this really poorly playing team come next year.

    I believe many are thinking, “Be afraid, be really afraid of what these guys might be capable of.”

  5. Fish’s driving end to end layup through three Celtics-Allen, Garnett, and Davis-in game 3 very likely saved the season, as they lost the next two in Boston. Defining moment of his career. Show no fear, go for it.

    Blake and Fish should be a good combo..

  6. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) August 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I’m one of those guys who had bad things to say about Fisher last year and, frankly, I regret NONE of them.

    Fisher was beyond atrocious during the regular season. If you put a gun to my head, I’d have a hard time identifying a worse starting point guard in the league during the first 82 games. I read a LOT of basketball blogs and news, and I’ve seen an ungodly amount of hand wringing about how invaluable Fisher is since the playoffs, but if he hadn’t hit some huge shots and had some big moments in the playoffs the decision that Fish is washed up would be nearly unanimous.

    To me, the closest parallel is Robert Horry during his last postseason with the Lakers in what ended up being the end of the Kobe/Shaq threepeat where he was roughly one for infinity from the three point line. He was demonstrably, definitively, undeniably atrocious.

    The problem is that he’d hit some big shots in very recent years. The glow of his intangibles and clutchness was almost blinding upon us. He was indispensable, up until the point where he suddenly was a complete liability.

    To me, Fish’s regular season was about as obvious a “Canary in the cowl mine” indicator as it is possible to get in the NBA. Fish being our projected starter next year fills me with chills. He should have fully transitioned into the “wise old sage mentoring the young, wild stallion point guard” stage of his NBA career. I felt this a couple of years ago when everyone was predicting Farmar to eventually take Fish’s starting gig away.

    I REALLY feel it now.

    If Blake hasn’t taken Fisher’s starting job away by the All Star break this coming season then something has gone horribly wrong with that signing. Fisher may be extraordinarily clutch, a winner in every facet of both his life and the beautiful game of basketball, and the master of intangibles…but by every measurable statistic he’s plain awful ON AVERAGE.

    Do I think resigning him is a bad thing? Of course not. Kobe likes and respects him. That’s worth a couple of million bucks right there. Should he be our starter? God no. He should be coming in off the bench nailing shots in the playoffs that make us doubters look like idiots for writing a single negative word about him.

  7. Sometimes the criticism of Derek Fisher is more like hysteria than actual criticism.

  8. When you’re the fifth starter in a line-up consisting of two future HoF players and two All-Star caliber players, your stats might take a hit. I’m just sayin’. Fish might not be the tallest, but he is always the biggest man on the court at any given moment.

  9. Fisher’s main problem is that he’s weighed down by his ginormous testicles full of intangibles, the added weight of which prevents him from guarding quicker guards.

  10. Why didn’t we just label the player review, “Ode to Aaron”? I get that his regular season play is not the best and is lacking in several areas, but this guy is the glue on our team and is more clutch than most superstars ever hope to be. True, he’s been able to ride shotgun with one of the league’s all-time superstars, but the man has stones when it counts. No bashing from me – I’ll take him on our team any time. Fish – thanks for being such a great player, leader and spirit to our team.

    Aaron – I’m a little disappointed you only posted twice, but I’m glad that you have (since the Finals) begrudgingly given the man his due props. Good on ya, mate!

  11. There really is no way to guard quicker guards in the league. You have the option of having a taller defender guard the pg position so they can give space to the offensive player. Thus, most pgs cant guard most pgs. So Fisher should be the starter, play with the first unit and depending on match ups, we might see barnes playing defense against pgs, specially if lamar is in the game.

  12. @kehntangibles… now that was funny, true and explains some of my own difficulties getting off the ground;) Does anybody else see how large nads might lead one to quickly rationalize PUJITs?

  13. Aaron — Thanks for the Kudos for Fisher’s Game Three heroics. I agree completely about his taking over that game. BTW, I think the Lakers tactic during that stretch (the 1-2 p&r) could be used to great effect in small doses to get Fisher and the Lakers off to hot starts.

    Mimsy’s Hubby — If I am not mistaken, Robert Horry won two more championships (with the Spurs) after his “atrocious” postseason as a Laker. He was used by the Spurs in a more limited role than with the Lakers, which may have extended his career. Limiting Fisher’s minutes and role may extend his career too, not to mention possibly garnering him (and us) more titles.

  14. The only people who harp on Fish, are the ones who aren’t on the court with him. Wow. I’m on Fish’s team, which is the Lakers.

  15. Hey, anybody know anything about Melo to the Clippers?

  16. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) August 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Skyhook33:

    I believe that was my point. That Fisher needs to be transitioned into a backup/limited role.

    And yes, Horry won a couple more titles with the Spurs, but his role was pretty changed during those later years. The reason? Well, it could have something to do with his statline in the playoffs during his final year with the Lakers.

    12 games
    FG% 31.9%
    3pt FG% 5.3%
    Free Throw% 55.6%

    Fisher is a valuable veteran presence. He’s a winner. He’s one of my all-time favorite Lakers EVER. He’s also a liability on the court on both sides of the floor at this point in his career.

    Everyone realizes this. That’s why the bench and the PG spot were identified as our most glaring weaknesses for the last couple of years.

    I’m not bashing Fish here. I AM saying that I’m definitely hoping that Blake steals Fish’s starting job at some point during this year. Or, to put it another way, if Blake DOESN’T manage to steal Fish’s starting job (or at least a huge share of the minutes) then he’ll have underperformed relative to expectations.

    Intangibles and clutchness can take you a long way. It’s why, against statistical evidence, I still consider Kobe to be the best player in the NBA. But there ARE limitations to just how much you can ignore statistical evidence and large sample size by looking at a couple of HUGE TESTICLES performances in the postseason.

  17. Does anyone know where I can watch kobe and fisher on rome is burning that aired today?

  18. Good Post Phillip, I really do think that what he did in game 3 of the Finals, gave us the NBA Championship in 2010. I only hope that his FG% will get back to a normal percentage for PG’s in the league. I am glad that we re-signed him, even if it is for three long years. Heck, it looks like our starters and 6th man will all be around for a while.

    “If we can have our own ‘Why’ of life, we can bear almost any ‘How’.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

  19. I have to agree with Mimsy’s hubby (16). I love Derek and am in awe of his intangibles and giant balls, and owe him for many great memories. However, it is long past time he transitioned into the “Robert Horry on the Spurs” role where he can conserve himself (or out and out sleepwalk) through the regular season before waking up for the playoffs.

    That said I still wouldn’t be surprised if Phil continues to let him start (albeit while also cutting his minutes close to a time share with Blake) unless Fish voluntarily goes to him and suggests a change.

  20. #17. Jordan,
    Fish is hosting Rome is Burning tomorrow, I believe. And based off Kevin Ding’s twitter feed, Kobe will be a guest on that episode.

    #16. Jim C.,
    I anticipate that Fisher will start, but will cede more than half the minutes available to PG’s to Blake. If I had to guess, I’d say that Blake plays 25-30 minutes a game while Fisher plays 18-20. I think a 6 minute stint to start the game and another 4-6 minute stretch in the 2nd quarter with that same trend repeating in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

    For all the hand wringing regarding Fisher AND all the praise coming his way, I think we all still need to recognize (as many do and are on this thread) that Fish still has tremendous value to this team as a leader. And while many say that he can provide that same leadership in a greatly reduced role, I don’t really agree. Fisher can’t be a 10 minute a game player and still be the presence he is in the huddle. A good portion of Fisher’s leadership is still be example. And while some of that is accomplished in practice, it’s still game minutes that contribute more of that. Now, I’ll be the first to agree that Fisher’s shot selection can leave you scratching your head. But, when you look a bit deeper and examine his usage rate (for example) you see that Fisher used much fewer possessions than Farmar and Brown (whose usage rates rivaled Bynum and Gasol) and that his (Fisher) usage tells a story of a player that still plays the role that he’s supposed to much better than the others that were asked to play that role in his stead. This is why you saw Fisher’s minutes stay high while Farmar (especially) and Brown (less so this past season as he played most of his minutes at SG) sat in the crucial minutes of most close games. Simply put, Fisher played the style that he was supposed to while others didn’t. And while his success wasn’t what any of us would have hoped for a lot of those minutes, it’s often the role being played effective that matters as much as the success achieved due to the roster that surrounds the PG on this team. I mean with Kobe, Pau, and Bynum (not to mention Artest and Odom) you need the complimentary players to have the mindset that they actually are *complimentary players*. This is a major reason why I think Blake will fit in well and that those two combined will play the style that the coaches want; they’ll play off the stars and work their role.

  21. 20, I think the bigger question is, who finishes games? I for one think that Blake will be a much more consistent player and shooter, but Fisher has always come through huge when it mattered most. I’m not sure how well Fisher will take being benched at the end of games, but I also don’t think Steve Blake could pull off Game 3 of the the 2010 NBA Finals.

  22. I NEVER bashed Derek last season–and I didn’t think that he had a bad season.

    It was Derek that helped stitch the partnerships together that led to a championship. There was the Good Mamba/bad mamba Kobe to manage in harmony with the big guys who demanded the ball, the Ron Artest to bring into the fold, the frequent need challenge Lamar and recognize Drew–and that will never come to a player that has serious interests in personal stat sheets. Derek rarely is given the opportunity for glory, and can be given truly unexpected tasks.

    It was not an accident when Derek led the team in rebounds one game. It was also not an accident the game that Derek had a completely empty stat sheet, but made a play in the closing minutes that won the game.

    It is interesting that Phil Jackson and Derek’s teammates appreciate his quiet contributions while many bloggers would replace him or at least get him off the court as soon and as much as possible.

    Not me.

  23. #20 Darius, that was today that fish hosted rome is burning we missed it thats why i want to see if its online anywhere I’m sure it’ll pop up soon tho, thanks

  24. Debating Fish is like debating Kobe and LeBron.

    Do you like a player that wins the game in the first 43 minutes, or one that wins it in the last 5?

    Not that this is factually based, but the debate really is akin to this. If we replaced Fisher with somebody that would be considered middle-of-the-pack among starting PGs, we probably won’t need his heroics and balls. Can’t say the same about locker room presence and chemistry, but Odom can probably step into that role too.

    I do hope that Blake either wrestles away the PG position or that Fisher sees an uptick in 3pt FG% and layup% so we can be at peace with him. Right now, I see his value but I don’t think it’s in the irreplacable area.

  25. Jordan,

    Rome just tweeted this a few minutes ago. Fish will be on today:

    Laker Derek Fisher holding down JRIB for me today. I’m back in The Jungle and JRIB Monday. The reason I TAKE so much vacay is I GET so much

  26. The team we follow has won five titles in ten years.

    I can live with the starting PG.

  27. R,

    ’nuff said

  28. At 11am pacific time, we’ll be chatting here at FB&G. Stop by and join us to talk everything Lakers, Team USA, general NBA, or anything else that you can think of.

  29. A couple of things that I think most of us are probably wrong about…

    1) Don’t get too caught up on all the praise Fisher gets from his teammates. What are they supposed to say? That he is done and a step slow and really hurts the team? He is a great guy and is personally loved by everyone of his teammates as a coach type figure and the head of the players union.

    2) We are really over valuing Steve Blake. He is a back up PG. A good back up PG… nothing more and nothing less. Do I think in the triangle that his weaknesses will be hidden much like Fisher’s? Yes I do. But the main problem we have with him is he isn’t 6-5 as to guard PG’s effectively. All we got basically is a slightly better version of Derek Fisher when Derek was 30 years old. He can shoot a little bit better and defend a little bit better than Derek and has that same toughness factor. But by no means did we bring in an average starting PG for us.