Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  March 16, 2012

It was one of the stranger trade deadlines, for the league and for the Lakers. The blockbusters never went down – D-Will stayed a Net and D-12, after going back and forth like a radio dial, finally said he had wanted to stay all along. For Laker fans, the news that a deal had been struck for Ramon Sessions was welcome. Many were sad to see Luke leave, myself included. But, the benefits were real, and strong. The Fisher trade on the other hand, left most of us stunned. And as day turned to night, much of the conversation turned to a tenured career that changed in an instant. He was a favorite to many, and he will be missed. Below are some articles about the Laker deals, and the day:

Dave McMenamin, from ESPN GO: According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Minnesota Timberwolves backed out of a three-team deal also involving L.A. and the Portland Trail Blazers at 11:53 a.m. PT, just seven minutes before the noon PT deadline. The trade that was in place would have sent Fisher to Minnesota and the Lakers’ first-round pick acquired in the Lamar Odom trade with the Dallas Mavericks back in December to Portland. Portland, already engaged in a full-fledged fire sale, would have sent Jamal Crawford to Minnesota and the Timberwolves would have sent Anthony Tolliver to Portland. Minnesota would have also been receiving cash considerations from both L.A. and Portland as well.

But, Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and general manager David Kahn pulled out of the deal at the last minute (well, eighth-to-last minute), leaving L.A. officials “puzzled and disappointed” according to a source. Who knows what changed Minnesota’s mind. Maybe it didn’t feel comfortable being on the hook for $3.4 million for a 38-year-old Fisher in 2012-13. Maybe it was concerned that Crawford would opt out of his relatively bargain price of $5 million for next season. L.A. didn’t have time to wallow in the uncertainty trying to figure out the answer. Instead, it scrambled to put together a secondary deal with the Rockets before the trade deadline passed.

Brian Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers (with press conference video): Following a very busy morning for the Lakers ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, Mitch Kupchak spent about 35 minutes with the media. The addition of Ramon Sessions to L.A.’s backcourt was obviously a topic of conversation, but not surprisingly Kupchak’s time was dominated by questions related to the departure of Derek Fisher. In his opening remarks, Kupchak welcomed Sessions, along with Jordan Hill and Christian Eyemga. He thanked Jason Kapono, and had some very nice words about Luke Walton, the other long time Laker sent packing today.

From there, he talked about Fisher:

“It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant to this organization on the court, off the court. If you’ve seen or read the release that our owner Dr. Buss put out, I think that puts it as succinctly as possible what he means and what he meant to this organization. From the bottom of our heart, my heart, I thank him for his contributions and I wish him well…

C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: As a basketball player, Derek Fisher is terrible. Only three other players who consistently start for their teams provide as little, statistically, as Derek provided to the Lakers, and, with the possible exception oof Raja Bell, all the others partially justify their performance with strong defense. Derek Fisher has no such justification. He’s a sieve on defense and one of the most ineffective starters in the league on offense. And he’s the only player in the league who could be a positive influence on his team even in those circumstances. I love Derek Fisher. It’s nearly impossible not to. The clutch shots are amazing, the big moments are fantastic, the memories of championships won are sublime, but I love Fish because he is the definition of doing it right. He, not Kobe Bryant, is the Anti-LeBron, the guy who made an entire career out of little more than hard work, perseverance, and belief in self. It is nearly impossible to find a 15-year veteran who is smaller, less athletic and less talented than Derek Fisher, and if you find that insulting, you don’t know Fish. It is also impossible to find a 15-year veteran who is less pretentious or less selfish, and you can bet those last two qualities are related to the first three. Derek Fisher is one of the worst basketball players in this league, and yet there isn’t a player in the league who doesn’t respect him. Derek Fisher’s stats barely register in the annals of history, but there is no way he will ever be forgotten.

Mark Whicker, OC Register: Once the Lakers and their fans get past the fact that they traded away some of their recent history on Thursday, they’ll probably be very comfortable with the deals they made. How long it will take Kobe Bryant to get past it is not clear. Derek Fisher, on top of his other roles, was Bryant’s confidante and, as he would say proudly, one of the few people whom Bryant would listen to. He also will live forever for the multitude of big shots he hit in playoff games, in San Antonio and Orlando and against the Celtics here. But Fisher is not a fit for the new Lakers offense, and Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions are simply a better point guard combination. Luke Walton, too, will be missed, as a professional, a locker room presence, and a very useful small forward in Phil Jackson’s two terms. But again Walton is a triangle-offense player who wasn’t going to be as comfortable in this offense, and Mike Brown had no plans for him.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: In an astonishing turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to trade Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets for forward Jordan Hill, likely ending the Laker career of a point guard who has started for three of the five Laker championship teams he’s played on. In a day that saw the Lakers save a good chunk of money (both in terms of Luke Walton’s 2012-13 contract, and the 2012 draft pick they don’t have to pay, sending both to Cleveland) while improving their point guard situation, the Lakers made a callous, needless, money-saving deal just to rid itself of Fisher’s $3.4 million contract for next season. Ramon Sessions, acquired earlier Thursday in a trade with Cleveland, is a good scoring point guard that was set to rightfully replace Fisher in the starting lineup, and he owns a $4.5 million player option for 2012-13 that he would likely pick up; unless some lights-out shooting and a long Laker playoff run tempted other teams into signing him for more money. In exchanging Walton’s contract for Sessions, and declining to pay a first-round pick guaranteed money next season, the Lakers were able to lop a few million off their 2013 payroll and luxury tax ledger; but they were still due to pay what would likely be about $15 million or so in dollar-for-dollar luxury tax payments; depending on where the tax figure is placed next year. Losing Fisher knocks $3.4 million off of those payments. And that’s it. They’re not under the cap, and they still have to pay a ton of luxury tax cash to non-tax paying teams. They just sold out everyone’s favorite teammate for a flighty big forward who won’t play much, and $3.4 million dollars.


The above articles are but a small sampling – there is no shortage of good writing about Fisher, Sessions, Luke, and more. In addition, there’s a game to play tonight. Like the deadline itself, it’ll be more than a little strange. I have my own feelings on the subject of Fish, I have a great admiration for him, and none for the way this was handled. Hoping for a win tonight, and for brighter days ahead.

– Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy