Archives For March 2012

So much for building on the momentum the Lakers had going coming into the game. After winning 5 straight, the Lakers lost only their 3rd home game of the season (and gave the road weary Jazz only their 6th win away from Salt Lake all year) by falling 103-99 to the Jazz.

There’s really not much to say about this game, though. Kobe Bryant played his worst game of the season, shooting 3-20 from the field (including 1-6 from three point range) while adding 7 turnovers. He saved his worst for last, as he shot 1-7 in the 4th quarter trying to spark his team when only a couple of baskets could have given the Lakers the control they had sought for most of the contest. It simply wasn’t Kobe’s night, as he missed shots he’d normally make with ease, short-arming bunnies in the paint and rattling out jumpers all evening. Maybe worse than his offensive mishaps though, was how his defense suffered too. Rookie Alec Burks took him off the dribble multiple times in the final frame, beat him for a key offensive put-back, and even sank a jumper in the P&R when Kobe could barely be bothered to fight through the screen. Burks ended the night with a career high 17 points on only 10 shots, and a lot of that was on Bean’s watch. I don’t blame single players for losses (and won’t do it now) but considering how much this team needs Kobe to play well for them to win on most nights, I’ve no problem calling him the primary culprit in this one.

The main reason Kobe can’t take full fault in this one was the fact that the rest of his mates were just as careless with the ball and nearly as negligent on defense as he was. Kobe may have had 7 TOs on his line, but the rest of the team added 17 more, which the Jazz took advantage of to the tune of 22 points. Defensively, the Lakers surrendered 10 offensive rebounds, 28 assists on Utah’s 43 made baskets, and let the Jazz get off 53 shots in the painted area (allowing 52 points). The Laker wings were unable to slow dribble penetration, the bigs were late in rotating, and no one did a very good job of challenging shots. All in all, the Jazz made over 50% of their 2 point shots, with Paul Millsap going off for 24 points and rookie Enes Kanter joining Burks in getting a career high of 17 points on 6-7 shooting. The Jazz certainly deserve credit in outworking the Lakers, but the home team was much too accommodating in letting their opponents get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to get it.

Not all was awful for the Lakers, though. The Laker big men were excellent on offense, with Pau tallying 18 points on 8-12 shooting while Andrew Bynum bullied his way to 33 points on only 14 (!) shots. Pau showed a variety of nice moves around the rim and was mostly money on his mid-range jumper. Bynum did what he’s been doing to most opponents lately, catching lobs for easy dunks, posting up with power and finishing with both hands, and flashing excellent footwork and counter moves when the defense tried to take away his primary action. Bynum also displayed excellent touch at the foul line, making 9 of his 12 freebies.

Beyond the big men there were some other good flashes from the team. Sessions’ speed and playmaking for the second straight game made a positive impression. He got his teammates easy baskets in transition and earned 10 FTs simply by using his quickness in the open court and the P&R to draw contact from his defender. Sessions also showed good chemistry with Matt Barnes, hooking up with him for several baskets that helped him get his 12 points on the night.

However, those were the only positives on a mostly sour night. Because while the game was close most of the way, the Lakers simply couldn’t get out of their own way for long enough to seize a game that was there for the taking. The glass half empty approach says that this team still makes too many mistakes with enough below average performers to keep them a tier below, but the glass half full approach says that despite Kobe being awful, the utter carelessness with the ball, and the D being way below where it is on most nights, the Lakers lost by only 4 points. The truth about this team is that they’re still not where they want to be, but are showing some positive signs of getting better. Sessions is helping. Barnes is proving to have good chemistry with both PGs. Bynum has become a beast on more nights than not, and even when he’s not on his game he’s a walking double-double. Yes there’s room to grow, but for the first time in a long time, when the Lakers lose I can still say that things aren’t quite as bad as they look.

Records: Lakers 28-16 (3rd in West), Jazz 22-22 (9th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.1 (17th in NBA), Jazz 105.7 (8th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.4 (9th in NBA), Jazz 106.5 (23rd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz: Devin Harris, C.J. Miles, Josh Howard, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors
Injuries: Lakers: none; Jazz: Al Jefferson (questionable), Raja Bell (questionable), Earl Watson (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: One game into the Ramon Sessions era and so far, so good. The Lakers picked up their 5th straight win and their new addition contributed with his speed, ability to set up his mates, and his feel for the game. As this team moves forward it will be important to not only integrate a key player but to continue to evolve as a group and better refine their schemes to raise their games even further. And for all the hand wringing surrounding Mike Brown, achieving this certainly looks possible. Over the past few weeks the Lakers have shown greater comfort on offense, seen Bynum continue to grow his game, and had Kobe continue to play at a high level.

As an aside, what’s gone mostly unsaid about the Lakers with all the change after the trade deadline is that Pau Gasol is still with the team. In Friday’s game, he definitely looked relieved and seemed to play with a clearer mind. He moved well around the court, was aggressive when he caught the ball, and just looked better. As with Sessions, a one game sample doesn’t automatically create a trend for the future, but it was good to see Pau play unburdened. If that continues, the Lakers may have picked up another player at the trade deadline: an invigorated Spaniard.

The Jazz Coming in: The Jazz are 3-2 in their last 5 games but have still – even if only temporarily – dropped out of the playoff race in the ultra-competitive West. This may actually be the preferred course of action for a young team that’s still rebuilding and trying to sort out their roster into workable pieces that fit together for long term success. They have a logjam in their front court with two high lottery picks (Kanter and Favors) playing behind two good veterans (Millsap and Jefferson), and are still sorting out who their long term answers will be on the wing, with both Gordon Heyward and Alec Burks proving to be inconsistent at these early stages of their careers. Another lottery pick wouldn’t be the worst thing for this team, as it could give them another player that may help their long-term plan to become that perennial playoff team they were with Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan. It’s a painful process to rebuild in this manner, but it could end up being what’s actually needed after this team showed they could not sustain their strong play from earlier in the season.

Jazz Blogs: Salt City Hoops and SLC Dunk are both very good sites for coverage and analysis of this team.

Keys to game: This will be the 4th and final time these two teams face off this season, and the Lakers have the opportunity to claim the series 3-1 with a win tonight. In the previous three games between these teams, a few trends have developed:

*The Jazz have been very good at attacking the offensive glass, grabbing 18, 10, and 18 offensive rebounds in the three games. In the last game (the lone Jazz win in this series) Millsap had 6 and Jefferson had 4 OReb’s and they’ll need to be closely marked and bodied to keep them from getting extra possessions. Gasol will need to be especially active, as Millsap will lurk on the weak side when shots go up and use his quickness and instincts to move to the ball and secure the rebound. Pau mustn’t get caught watching the ball too much or lose sight of Millsap, or else he’ll find himself chasing the Jazz forward after the rebound is already lost.

*The Jazz have not proven capable of hurting the Lakers from beyond the three-point line in any of the games. They’re 9-39 from behind the arc in the three contests and the Lakers should force them to take the long jumper again and again until they prove they can make those shots. This is especially true with the Jazz’s emphasis on getting points through their post players and with Raja Bell (their best deep shooter) questionable. Dig downs from the guards should be a point of emphasis to bother the Jazz big men, but with LA’s wings still closing out under control back to their shooters to still contest shots.

*Andrew Bynum needs to get his touches against Al Jefferson (should he play) and Derrick Favors. Bynum has the size advantage on both players and in the last Jazz game he scored 21 points on only 14 shots while helping to draw fouls on the Jazz front line. Bynum’s recent play has buoyed the Lakers’ offense and tonight that should continue with some matchups in his favor.

*Kobe’s been great at getting to the FT line against this team by attacking the basket and using his repertoire of fakes and feints to get his defender off balance and draw contact. He should continue that trend tonight, especially if Jefferson plays. When big Al and Millsap are in the game, the Jazz don’t have a big man that can defend the rim and Kobe should use that as incentive to try and get to the paint. If he doesn’t get a good shot right at the front of the rim, he’ll either draw a foul or get one of his big men a good look via an offensive rebound or a dump-off pass, a method of fueling the Lakers’ offense when they don’t simply dump the ball into the post or run their screen actions.

Tonight gives the Lakers a good opportunity to keep their momentum going and continue their push for a strong playoff seed. The Lakers are excellent at home, so the expectation is that they’ll play well — but they must do it on the court and not just expect it to happen. With the added energy of the Sessions deal and the big three showing strong chemistry of late, here’s hoping the good play continues.

Where you can watch: 6:30PM start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Mike Brown has named his starting point guard for the “foreseeable future” and it will be Steve Blake. From Dave McMenamin at ESPN Los Angeles:

“I don’t want to guarantee anything or put anything in stone because I don’t know if it’s healthy to do that all the time,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said following the team’s film session and light voluntary practice on Saturday. “It’s definitely Steve’s job for the foreseeable future and it might be his job for the rest of the year. I don’t know.”

More from the head coach:

“The tough part about it, and everybody is going through it, is I don’t know if we can have any more contact practices,” Brown said. “You’d like to be able to have some contact practices so you can coach in that situation, but the reality of it is I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford to do that with the way our schedule is.”

Surely there will be rumblings about Sessions not starting from a fanbase that has pined for an upgrade at PG for what seems like years. However, Brown’s reasoning is sound in this case and a bit of patience is needed.

Sessions will play plenty of minutes (he played 19 in a game where he’d learned plays from an email exchange with the coaches the night before), so whether he starts or not really isn’t relevant. In fact, whether he finishes games – at least right away – isn’t relevant either.

What does matter is getting Sessions on the same page as all his teammates, a point he made himself in post game interviews. Sessions is a point guard in the truest sense of the word. He wants to be able to have command over the Lakers sets, know the strengths of his teammates, and learn how to maximize the effectiveness of himself and his teammates within the schemes he’s asked to run. This, of course, takes time.

Asking him to come in and start right away wouldn’t be putting him in the best position to succeed, even if he could still provide good play in the process. Allowing him to learn as he goes and do the things that he does best when he comes into the game – push the ball and run P&R’s – actually fits best into a reserve role right now. Over time that will likely change, but give it some time.

Right now, though, it’s good to simply have him on board. In Friday’s win against the T’Wolves he had an obvious impact with his speed and ability to get into the lane. He collapsed the defense and created spot up chances for his teammates while making all of his baskets in the paint. The Lakers haven’t had a PG that could make those claims with any consistency for a long time. Whether he starts or not, I’m just thankful we’ll be able to say this about the Lakers game after game moving forward.

Box Score: Lakers 97, Wolves 92
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 106.6, Wolves 101.1
True Shooting %: Lakers 56.4%, Wolves 47.7%

The trade deadline is gone. For months (heck, for years), us Laker fans knew what we wanted. What we really, really wanted. We wanted a much better PG. The deadline cost the Lakers Derek Fisher. But what the Lakers got back? A young, quick 1 in Ramon Sessions.

Also, goodbye to Luke Walton. And goodbye to Jason Kapono. We hardly knew ya, Jason. And hello, Jordan Hill and Christian Eyenga! Jordan Hill. She sounds hot.

Let’s start with Matt Barnes. He seems to play really well against these Wolves (remember his 23-point effort last year where he didn’t miss a single shot). In this game, he scored 17 points off the bench (6/9 shooting). He made three shots behind the arc, which is three more than what the Lakers usually make per contest. He and that new point guard (who we’ll get to in a bit) were the catalysts of that 19-6 run in the second quarter. After that, the Lakers were seemingly in cruise control; the Wolves never seemed like a threat to win the game. L.A. played well enough (though by no means did they play excellent) to win the contest.

It’s really hard to make out what was extremely good in the still-together core of Kobe Bryant (who’s probably going to play a bunch of Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat for the rest of the season since his BFF is gone from the squad), Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Gasol, who probably listened to a lot of Boyz II Men before the trade deadline, started out really fast but, in the overall game, wasn’t the most impressive. Neither was Andrew Bynum; he had trouble making shots inside and stopping the Wolves on the opposite end. Kobe didn’t have a high-percentage shooting night, though he was blowing smoke off his fingers every time he put up a shot behind the arc. But they all produced. Kobe Bryant had 28 points (including that baseline J that put the game away) on 9-for-20 shooting. Pau Gasol had 17 and 11 while Bynum had 15 and 14.

As for the debut of Ramon Sessions? He brought some much-needed speed and quickness to this Lakers team. Compared to Derek Fisher, Ramon is Sonic The Hedgehog. He was a sparkplug off the bench today (obviously, it’s his first game so it was best to bring him off the pine) and had a crowd-pleasing one-on-four fastbreak lay-up (okay, he burned everyone). It was quite shocking to see such a play made by one wearing the purple-and-gold. In 19 minutes, Sessions finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. Just what the doctor ordered.

Steve Blake started in place of the recently-departed Fisher. He played a quiet but very good floor game to the tune of 6 assists and 0 turnovers.

Led by Matt Barnes, the bench scored 31 points. Yes, I know. I’m as surprised as you are.

This normally doesn’t happen, either. The Lakers never beat anybody behind the arc. But the Lakers made 10 3-pointers compared to the Wolves’ 4. An 18-point advantage in that department is always good.

Also, the Wolves struggled to make shots. They only ended up making 40.2% of their shots. Always a good thing if the Lakers’ opponents don’t shoot well, right?

Those big guys must be difficult to box out or something. The Wolves beat them in the offensive glass, 18-11. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love combined for 12 offensive rebounds alone.

Andrew Bynum really struggled tonight on both sides as the Wolves threw big bodies at him. The repeated double-teaming got to him. He only shot 4-for-13 but, at least, he perservered and still got big numbers in the end.

The Wolves also scored 48 points inside the paint as they tried to abuse the Lakers inside. The Lakers countered back with 12 blocked shots, yes, but it was a bit of a concern throughout the game. Because Minnesota never seemed to make noise about coming back, we might have seen the quietest 27-15 performance from Kevin Love. Nikola Pekovic also had big numbers at 20 and 12.

The Lakers also had some trouble defending the pick-and-roll. Luke Ridnour had 11 points and 12 assists. These would be more glaring issues if the Lakers were losing or won in a closer game (because, seriously, the scoreboard doesn’t indicate how the Lakers controlled this game).

The Lakers only shot 41.3 percent. I can’t say this was a good thing, either.

Also? No Ricky Rubio. And we all know he’s not returning this season. I’m going to go cry in the corner now.

Not the most exciting game to watch even if the Lakers controlled the contest nearly the entire game. The first quarter was as exciting as staring at a blank computer screen. The game came alive when Ramon Sessions came in so let’s thank him for that!

Also ugly? Ask the Wolves. They haven’t beaten the Lakers in 19 straight contests.

The fastbreak dunk by Kobe Bryant off the Steve Blake assist in the second quarter. Nikola Pekovic can tell his grandkids later that he was in a poster with Kobe Bryant. Well, heck, I want to be in a Kobe Bryant poster, too.

That video makes me want to go to Germany, sing some David Hasselhoff songs, and get that knee procedure. Even though there’s nothing wrong with my knees other than the fact that I can’t jump over ants.

The Lakers draw Utah in Staples Center on Sunday. L.A. is 19-2 at that comfy stadium. And they have won 5 straight games overall. They could be peaking right now. And with the new Sessions acquisition (and Jordan Hill… and Christian Eyenga…), the Lakers are now a tougher team to go against.

Before I end this, I want to get a few words in about Derek Fisher as well. Most of us have called for Derek Fisher’s head due to his on-court performance in the last few years. But those championship banners don’t hang without Derek Fisher. Yes, we cringe and shout expletives every time he gets burned by an opposing point guard and when he misses one of his now-patented foot-on-the-line shots. But Fisher just has that ability to make the shots under the most pressure. We all remember the shot against Orlando in the Finals that sent the game to OT. In that same contest, he made another big 3 that essentially won them the game. There was also Game 3 in the 2010 NBA Finals when he made a lay-up against three Celtics. We can never forget that post-game interview about how he much loved his team and this game. Not many people talk about this but he made that game-tying three in the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The Lakers never relinquished the lead after that moment and went on to win the championship. And, of course, 0.4. That moment is immortal. We will always have that and that’s thanks to Derek Fisher.

For every big shot… it’s hook, line, sinker, Fish. We will all miss you, Derek Fisher. Good luck the rest of the way. This game was for you.

Records: Lakers: 27-16 (3rd in West), Timberwolves: 22-22 (9th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers: 104.1 (17th in NBA), Timberwolves: 105.1 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers: 101.4 (10th in NBA), Timberwolves: 104.2 (15th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Timberwolves: Luke Ridnour, Martel Webster, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Injuries: Lakers: none; Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio (Out), Michael Beasley (Questionable)

The Lakers Coming In: The Trade Deadline has come and gone, and with the deadline went Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and Derek Fisher. Both Darius and Dave shared their thoughts on dealing Fish yesterday, and without drawing this out more than they should be, I’ll just quickly add that I share many of their sentiments about Fish, and am truly sad to see him go, although I understand the implications of his departure. With Fish, Walton and Kapono gone, the Lakers will turn their focus toward the end of the season (which is rapidly approaching), with what should be a upgrade in offensive production from the point guard position in Ramon Sessions. It’s unclear whether or not Sessions will suit up for the Lakers tonight, but Sessions will soon likely get the starting minutes at point with Steve Blake coming off the bench.

The Lakers are coming off two straight overtime road wins, and have won 12 of their last 16 overall. They’re steadily improving on both ends of the floor as the season progresses, and look to nab another home win tonight.

The Timberwolves Coming In: Last Friday, the Lakers beat Minnesota and took more than just a victory from the impressive Wolves, they took their rising star in Ricky Rubio when Kobe took out his knee. Since the last meeting between the two, the Wolves have lost two of three, including a tough overtime loss in Utah last night. Minnesota let the trade deadline come and go without making any moves, which isn’t going to help for their playoff push this season, but keeping their core intact is likely the best move for them looking ahead. The Wolves were in talks with the Blazers and the Lakers for a deal that would have sent Jamal Crawford to Minnesota and Michael Beasley to the Lakers. Obviously things never materialized, but that was as close as the Wolves got to making a deal before the deadline.

Timberwolves Blogs: Make sure you check out A Wolf Among Wolves. Ben Polk, Zach Harper and Myles Brown do a great job proving all the Wolves analysis you can handle.

Keys to the Game: The last two times these teams played, Kevin Love was out either sick or nursing an injury. Tonight, the Lakers will not have the luxury of not having to box Love out, but will have to dominate on the boards to win tonight. The Lakers had a +15 rebound advantage in the previous two games combined, and will have to find a way to continue this trend despite the magnetic  force field that sends all rebounds to wherever Love is on the floor.

To do this, the Lakers are going to need to go into Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum early and often, eliminating the number of long jumpers and the time either Pau or Bynum would otherwise spend away from the rim. This not only puts them in position for high percentage shots, but it puts the best rebounders in prime position for offensive rebounds. Defensively, the Lakers are going to have to work to box out. Not only Love, but Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams can kill the Lakers on the boards if it becomes a matter of effort.

Other than rebounding, closing out on shooters is going to be huge for the Lakers tonight. They have a number of guys who aren’t afraid to pull the trigger from three, and when you’re overmatched, the three pointer is a great equalizer. In the three-point victory, the Wolves shot 40 percent from behind the arc, while in the 19-point win, the Wolves shot 26 percent from behind the arc. If you can keep this Timberwolves team from dominating the glass and can  run their shooters off the three point line, you have a great shot at not only winning, but putting them away early.

Where You Can Watch: 7:30 p.m. start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

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

It’s never easy saying goodbye to one of your favorite players. When you root for a team, certain players become more than a jersey, their stats, or even their contributions. They’re more than someone you hope succeeds on the court. They become, even if it’s patently illogical, part of your extended family.

This is how I’ve felt about Derek Fisher.

Through the years, D-Fish has provided me with some of my most memorable moments as a Lakers fan. The countless big shots. The moments where he’d rise to the occasion where many others would wilt. The times where he’d gather his guys in the huddle and inspire his teammates with words that only come natural to people that are born leaders. This was Derek Fisher I rooted for.

When you think about it, Fisher is one of the more unique players in recent history. He was never the best player on the team, but he was respected like he was. He was never the most skilled player but he had a knack for making the right play at the right time. He willed himself to becoming a contributing player on multiple championship teams through hard work and desire.

He became a player that superstars looked to for guidance but role players saw as one of their own. He was part player, part coach. Part clutch performer and part motivational speaker. He was an iron man on the court (not missing a game in 6 straight seasons and counting) and iron willed off it. Competitive as all get out and willing to do whatever necessary to win. This endeared him to his teammates and Lakers’ fans, despised by other fanbases, but respected all the same.

During this past off-season, he led the players union with dignity and dogged determination. He spoke of sticking together, of fighting for what was fair, and for not backing down in the face of what would surely be a deal that would be remembered as a defeat. He did this not because he necessarily wanted to, but because he was chosen to by his peers. Chosen to represent all players as the head of their union and fight for their interests.Gaining such respect doesn’t just happen on accident. It happens because of an abundance of character and leadership ability. Players from opposing teams and those that shared a locker room with him saw these qualities in him.

He was yin to Kobe’s yang of leadership style. The one that could smooth off the rough edges of a biting critique. The person that could turn a harsh phrase into a useful plan of attack to implement in the next game, on the next possession. And now, with him gone. A void must be filled. Who steps in at this point is anyone’s guess. Maybe Gasol – a player of long tenure and equal thoughtfulness is the guy. Maybe Bynum’s youthful honesty and emerging game will command the respect of his peers. And, of course, Mike Brown and Kobe will need to step in and be the guides that move this team forward.

Of course Fisher had his flaws. I mean, he’s been replaced in the lineup for real reasons and some other Laker will be looked to fill in what was missing from his game; to provide what he wasn’t in tangible production. But right now, it’s not really about harping on what he wasn’t and more about appreciating him for what he was and what he did provide. Which, for the time he wore a Lakers uniform was so much more good than bad.

It will be strange not having Fisher around. He was, for all intents and purposes, the definition of a professional. And I, for one, will miss him dearly. Though I’m sure I’m not alone there.

The trade deadline has come and gone and it’s bitter-sweet to be sure as the Lakers added a player that should help them a great deal but traded a player that has meant so much to their organization for so long.

In a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers acquired the point guard help they’ve sought, adding Ramon Sessions. Sessions has a variety of useful skills that will help this team. He’s a penetrating guard that can work in the pick and roll both as a set up man and as a finisher. When he turns the corner he’s a threat to get all the way to the rim to finish and that skill alone means the defense will need to make hard choices in terms of helping, especially those players guarding Pau and/or Bynum. He’s also a very good passer that reads plays ahead of time, meaning he rewards his teammates that move off the ball and dash into open space by hitting them on time with passes that allow them to finish easily. Basically, he’s a PG in the truest sense and for a team that’s moved to a more traditional offense this season, his skill set is a nice match for this team.

Of course, Sessions isn’t the perfect player and there’s a reason the Lakers could get him in the deal they did. Though he’s making over 40% of his three pointers this season, historically his jumper is shaky. If teams don’t respect his ability to hit the open J, the already dicey spacing exhibited on many Laker possessions will only be worse. This can be off-set somewhat by his ability to attack off the dribble because when defenses don’t close out he can hurt them but getting into paint or forcing help when he puts the ball on the floor, but he’ll need to make defenses pay with his jumper to truly be the player the Lakers need on offense. Defensively, his reputation is also of someone that doesn’t have good instincts and will make mistakes on that side of the floor. He’s not known to navigate screens well and his thin frame allows him to be overpowered by stronger guards. Of course, defending the elite class of PG’s in this league is a team effort and if Sessions can be brought up to speed on that side of the floor he may end up being a neutral defender. Which, if he’s helping on offense as much as he’s capable of, will be a net positive in the end.

Where Sessions acquisition would have caused the most issues was how he got integrated into a lineup that already had Derek Fisher and Steve Blake at his position. By my math, without trading or demoting one of those players, the Lakers had one PG too many and would need to sort that out. The Lakers, though, must have been thinking the same thing when right before the trade deadline came to pass it was announced that the team traded Derek Fisher and the Mavericks 1st round pick acquired in the Odom trade to the Rockets for PF/C Jordan Hill.

At this point, it’s safe to assume that the Lakers simply did not want to deal with the politics of demoting Fisher, a player whose voice is respected in the lockerroom and who provided leadership as both a veteran and a champion. Fisher is a prideful player and while his play has been in decline, he was still a key figure that his team rallied around when times got hard. With Sessions now in the fold and Steve Blake not dealt away, Fisher suddenly became the least productive player in a three man PG rotation and would have surely been the player whose minutes got cut.

But how do you ease him out of the lineup? How do you tell one of your leaders that his time as an on court performer is up and that he must recede to background while other, younger options take his minutes and his role? The fact is that for a first year coach and someone that doesn’t have nearly the clout in the locker room as the player he’d be demoting, there’s no good way to do this. At least not one that doesn’t risk a divided locker room with players potentially taking sides. The easiest thing to do, then, is to trade that player away and save yourself the difficult conversation and potential repercussions of demotion.

And so, the Lakers have traded away one of their leaders. Derek Fisher contributed to 5 championship teams. His shots against the Magic in game 4 of the 2009 Finals that forced overtime and then won the game will live forever. As will his game 3 performance against the Celtics a year later that clinched the game and put the Lakers up 2-1 in a Finals they ultimately won. Add in his historically hot shooting in 2001 that helped carry his team to an unprecedented 15-1 record in the playoffs and Fisher is a Laker legend. He’s on the Mt. Rushmore of Lakers role players. And now he’s headed to Houston for a serviceable big man.

There was a changing of the guard today for the Lakers. They’re probably better on paper than they’ve been in a year and a half and that’s certainly worth something. However, they’re certainly also lighter in the leadership department and definitely in the intangible qualities of having a guy on board that’s not only been there before but made sure the team left with the hardware. As I said earlier, it’s a bitter-sweet day to be a Lakers fan.