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.”