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BILL PLASCHKE

Treatment of Derek Fisher shows hypocrisy is a family value in Utah

Jazz fans, from their renowned capital of goodness, give their former point guard a rude welcome in Game 3.

May 08, 2010|Bill Plaschke

"Fisher sucks, Fisher sucks."

From this celebrated bastion of family values, we bring you the words of citizens ripping a man for leaving town to care for his cancer-stricken daughter.

"Fisher sucks! Fisher sucks!"

From this renowned capital of goodness, we bring you people preparing for Mother's Day by ripping a guy for trying to be a father.

"Fisher sucks! Fisher sucks!"

The anger that spewed down from the scowling Utah Jazz fans in steamy EnergySolutions Arena here Saturday wasn't new. They haven't liked Fisher here since he left the Jazz after one season in 2007, granted his release to better care for his young daughter suffering from eye cancer, arousing suspicion that he simply wanted to return to the Lakers.

What was new was the constant sound of their hate, the insistence of their boos, the orchestration of the first-half chant, the desperation of a grudge that had pushed them to the brink in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Also new was the fact that, finally, Derek Fisher shut their yappers.

OK, so that last word is from Ron Artest's tweet-cabulary, but Fisher deserves it more today, having endured the wrath of 19,911 with a passion that he spread to a bored Lakers team that wound up stealing a breathless 111-110 victory to take a three-games-to-none series lead.

Yeah, this series is unofficially over, the Lakers need only to win here Monday to finish a sweep and head to a probable Western Conference finals series against Phoenix. And, yeah, the Jazz fans' anger should finally be over, or haven't they realized that they only inspired Fisher to have his best game of the spring?

"You see what's happening, right?" asked Laker Shannon Brown. "It might be nice if Fish got booed everywhere like this."

In the locker room afterward, seemingly for the first time all night, the 35-year-old guy with four championship rings smiled.

"It's still there," he said of his ability to carry a game through the fire.

Indeed it is, Fisher flinging rainbows and digging ditches in the final moments to summon the Lakers' championship will and lead them off the court to stunned silence.

"I just hope this game was as entertaining to the fans as it was to all of us playing it," Fisher said with a grin. "Two teams laying it all out there."

None more than Fisher, who drew charges and hit jumpers throughout the first three quarters to keep the Lakers close, then finished it with a flourish that left his bald head dripping with even more sweat than usual.

With the Lakers trailing by two with 28.6 seconds remaining, Fisher hit a deep three-pointer to give them a lead they never lost.

"All year long I've been in the gym, taking my shots, getting in my work . . . this is what you prepare for," he said.

A few seconds later, with the Lakers clinging to that one-point lead, Fisher then disrupted Carlos Boozer on a missed layup that was one of the Jazz's best final chances.

"You just keep working," Fisher said.

When it finally ended after Wesley Matthews' last-second tip rolled gently off the side of the rim, Fisher had put in his best postseason work — 20 points, three assists, one turnover, and a trio of three-pointers.

"His tenacity is a factor for us," said Coach Phil Jackson.

But how about the tenacity of those fans who still don't believe that, three years ago, Fisher was thinking of his family instead of himself? Fans who still boo even though Fisher gave up $8 million when he was released from his three-year deal. Fans who still boo even though Tatum Fisher, now nearly 4, has regained 50% of vision in her eye and her cancer is in remission.

"I don't think this is the best venue to have this discussion," said Fisher, surrounded by media in front of his locker. "But it's interesting."

He shook his head.

"I would venture to guess that if I was a construction worker . . . who requested a transfer to another department for the betterment of his family, I would be commended for it," Fisher said. "But because it's sports, there's just so much passion added to it."

Ironically, Sunday is the third anniversary of one of the most emotional moments Utah Jazz franchise history.

It was when Derek Fisher, after spending the day holding Tatum's hand during cancer treatment, showed up in the third quarter of a playoff game against the Golden State Warriors and led the Jazz to a victory.

Fans here have apparently forgotten that moment. They won't forget this one.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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