Lakers guards Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher watch the Mavericks pull away… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
About two weeks ago, Derek Fisher gathered together his teammates and told them to look around the room.
He warned all the Lakers that if they don't reach their goal of winning a third consecutive NBA championship, next season the faces on the team could look quite different.
Fisher pointed out that the possibility of the Lakers' management making changes was realistic because it happened to him during his first tour with the Lakers.
"We discussed that buttons will be pushed," Fisher said after practice Thursday. "That's the reality, and it's business with this team. You have to understand it and appreciate it for what it is. I think guys understand it."
The Lakers began the season as the favorites to win the title, but their hopes are fading because of the 0-2 deficit they face against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. Games 3 and 4 are in Dallas this weekend.
It's already a given that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson will retire after the season.
When the Lakers lost their bid to win a fourth consecutive title in 2003 by losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round, Robert Horry and Brian Shaw, two staples of the three-peat, were not retained.
The Lakers had nine new players on the 2003-04 team.
"When it doesn't work out and you have the talent that this team has, you think going forward, it's not going to be the same afterwards if you don't get through it," said Shaw on Thursday. Shaw, now an assistant coach with the Lakers, will be one of the candidates to replace Jackson.
If the Lakers fail to win a title this season, "it's not going to be all the same guys and the same faces around anymore," Shaw said.
In 2004 the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons and the team made more changes, bringing in 10 new players and another coach. Jackson left (but was rehired a year later), Shaquille O'Neal and Rick Fox were traded and Fisher was allowed to leave.
"If you want to stay on this bus and take this ride and play for the Lakers and everything that this brings to you, then do everything humanly possible to push through," Fisher said. "Management is still going to make decisions that they feel like are best. But the best way to impact that decision is to win."
Shaw heard the Lakers fans booing Wednesday night, even hearing one fan say, "I want my money back."
He understood their sentiment, knowing that Lakers fans and management are all about winning championships.
"If [players] like the palm trees, the sunny weather and the pretty women in L.A. and the other stuff that comes along with it, if you want to keep it, then you better come with it," Shaw said. "If you don't, there are a whole bunch of other guys that would love to be in this position. And this organization is not going to sit around and wait."