Advertisement

T.J. SIMERS

Derek Fisher pushes right buttons for Lakers

Underappreciated point guard Derek Fisher may be the best team player on the Lakers, even if some fans fail to recognize that.

March 26, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers guard Derek Fisher, left, and Clippers center Chris Kaman, right, are separated by referee Scott Foster and Clippers guard Randy Foye during the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 112-104 victory Friday at Staples Center.
Lakers guard Derek Fisher, left, and Clippers center Chris Kaman, right,… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

It's funny now, Chris Kaman getting ejected Friday night, telling Derek Fisher he'd be meeting him outside and Kobe Bryant asking, "What's Kaman going to do, shoot him with one of his bow and arrows?"

But you know as well as Kaman does, Fisher just bugs you.

There's just something about the guy, whether you're wearing the opponents' uniform and getting whistled for an offensive foul, or he's angering Lakers fans for being the team's weak link.

So I wanted to know: "Is there an art to getting under people's skin?"

"You may know better than me," Fisher says with a twinkle, and you see what I mean.

A superstar, Elgin Baylor, nobody knew; a Lakers team nobody saw

He knows how to push buttons, a key performer in bringing five championship parades to Los Angeles, and yet so many Lakers fans want to know why he's still here.

Read anything on the Internet about Fisher, and if it allows for comments below, they will be dominated by vicious fans who just hate what he does or cannot do.

The comments are idiotic for the most part, but it does not mean they don't hurt a proud athlete who believes he's giving it everything he has. And usually that's pretty good, as evidenced by the number of banners hung by the Lakers.

"We all want to be appreciated," Fisher says. "I don't know how much better we can play as a team. Yet, there are still a high number of people that think I'm not pulling my weight."

Watch him during a game, just him, and there is an art to what he does. He understands the game, makes the opposition uncomfortable and works the officials.

Lakers blog

"Most of the time I'm lobbying for Andrew, for Kobe, for Ron …" he says of teammates Bynum, Bryant and Artest. "I'm just trying to do what I can to help us as a team."

He spends a lot of time on the floor, then picks himself up. He bumps and gets bumped. "He's a bulldog," says Coach Phil Jackson.

How many extra possessions have the Lakers earned on the way to winning championship after championship because Fisher has taken a bone-jarring charge?

The other night, he reminded an official that a screen set behind a player is illegal. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan then gets called for setting an illegal screen on Fisher.

Jordan laughs, because he knows he's been snookered.

Take a whole game into account and the argument can be made Fisher is the toughest player in the NBA. He stands in the way of a charging 300-pound center, gets flattened and bounces right up. Always does.

He's played in almost 500 consecutive games, the NBA's longest current streak. And that's a little guy taking a beating in a big man's game every night.

Most of the time, it's a job well done given his team's overwhelming success. Yet when it's over, it's time for the fans to pile on — wanting more.

"We're a team with really, really good players," Fisher says. "If you're not as good as those guys, maybe the blame is going to go your way."

Lakers database: All things Lakers

Whatever the reason, the idiots think themselves smarter than the coach who has won more titles than any other NBA coach.

"Here's what I like about him," says Jackson. "When things get to a point in a ballgame when we need execution by design or reads, he's able to do that. A lot of our other players are looking to drop the ball in Kobe's lap and then walk away sucking their thumbs.

"Fish is able to continue to run the offense. Everybody says he makes really big shots at the end of games, and yes he does, but that's because he knows how to execute the plays."

He's not the point guard that so many teams now have. He doesn't score as much as many of them, isn't as fast with the ball.

"This offense doesn't require that," says Jackson. "It requires a quarterback of sorts, but he doesn't have to score the touchdowns."

As for being unable to stay with the quicker guards, Jackson smiles and asks who can these days? He says once the game allowed great athletes to carry the ball, it made it nearly impossible for any one player to hang with quick guards.

That won't be enough, of course, for fans who know better. They want a better defender playing in Fisher's place, a younger player, someone maybe more dependable shooting the ball.

It accounts for the chip on Fisher's shoulder, five championship rings still not enough to prove he's arrived. "I want the sixth more than the first five," he says.

"I want to prove, and more than to other people but to myself, that I belong here and can deliver when the team needs me to do so. I know there are a growing number of people that still question whether or not I'm physically capable of playing, but this is pro sports. If I was as bad as some people think, then I'd be gone."

He remains a Laker, the team playing its best basketball of the season. And Fisher might be the Lakers' No. 1 team player.

Just something for the idiots to ponder.

KOBE WENT on the offensive to open the game with the Clippers rather than stepping back into his facilitator role.

"Just cranking it up to get in playoff form," he explained.

"So if you're getting into playoff form, shouldn't you have hit that three-pointer at the first-half buzzer?" I asked.

"I can't make them all," he said, and do you think he really believes that?

I WANTED to know why Kobe has taken to chewing his jersey while playing defense.

"Just a habit," he said.

He seems to be doing it more and more.

"You're probably watching me more," he said. "You just have a man crush or something on me."

Is it that obvious?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|