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LAKER REPORT

Fisher Will Do What's Best for All

January 31, 2002

ORLANDO, Fla. — At the conclusion of a very trying, very emotional year, the last place Derek Fisher figured to find himself was on the Laker bench.

So, when Phil Jackson came to him a week ago and put him there, Fisher momentarily lost his breath.

Jackson wanted Lindsey Hunter in the starting lineup, and while Fisher hasn't lost a lot of playing time to the decision, clearly the starting status meant something to him.

One of the most approachable Lakers, Fisher refused to publicly discuss his role change until Wednesday night, an hour before his fourth game as a reserve.

"The most frustrating part about the situation is we haven't played well as a group," Fisher said. "Whatever decision Phil makes

"The fact we struggled, that's what made it hard to deal with."

The Lakers had lost two in a row and five of seven when Hunter replaced Fisher, and they are 3-1 since. Jackson had always believed Hunter would be more effective as a starter. It also put Fisher, a triangle veteran, with the second team, where he could lend a sure hand.

Still, Fisher retook his starting position almost immediately upon returning from foot surgery, his second procedure in nine months, and never considered losing it.

After all, hadn't he been a critical part of things when the Lakers concluded last season with 23 wins in 24 games?

"That's the feeling that I had," he said, "like I really had improved and put myself in a position where I could be a starter in this league. So, I didn't know where it came from.

"[But] it's not new. I just have to go through this adjustment period again."

*

Hunter, who has a strained lower back, played 15 minutes and did not score against the Magic.... Fisher sprained his left ankle slightly late in the third quarter and missed the start of the fourth quarter while it was retaped.

Tim Brown

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