In a controversial move, the Lakers dealt Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
A statement released by Derek Fisher's business manager suggested the Houston Rockets bought out his contract partly out of his hope to play on a championship-contending team.
"After much discussion and expressing their desire to welcome Derek to their team this season as well as the 2012-2013 season, the Houston Rockets and Derek have negotiated a buyout," said Jamie Wior, Fisher's business manager. "Derek's desire to win a sixth championship is what drives him and will continue to drive him as he moves forward. We thank the Houston Rockets front office for their interest, time and their absolute professionalism. There will be no further comment at this time."
As first reported by ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne, the Rockets and Fisher agreed to a buyout after the Lakers traded him Thursday for forward Jordan Hill. Fisher is expected to be officially waived Monday and can sign with any other team except the Lakers if he clears waivers by Wednesday. Fisher had a $3.4-million player option for the Lakers next season. He indicated in both his 2011 exit interview and after he signed to a three-year, $10.5-million deal with the Lakers in 2010 that he planned to exercise his player option.
Kobe Bryant, who won five championships with Fisher and shared the co-captain role in recent seasons, said he talked with his former teammate Sunday but declined to elaborate what came out of that discussion.
"I don't know," Bryant said. "We don't talk about that. I'm lying. But we don't talk about it."
Neither has Fisher. He has declined comment through his representative since the Lakers traded him, a move Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said the team made for various reasons. After acquiring Ramon Sessions from Cleveland in a separate deal, Kupchak envisioned Fisher accepting a bench role "in a professional manner," but that it would put the team in an awkward spot in the locker room. The Lakers worried a bloated backcourt and strong teammate support for Fisher could have put Coach Mike Brown in an awkward spot as the Lakers seek to upgrade at point guard.
Fisher averaged 5.9 points on 38.3% shooting, his lowest scoring output his second year in the NBA during the 1997-98 campaign. He routinely struggled defending young point guards. Yet, Fisher's teammates still held him in high esteem for two reasons. He made clutch plays, such as his game-winning three-pointer against Dallas or diving for a loose ball against Denver. Fisher also kept the locker room together, such as when he routinely emphasized in informal gatherings not to let frustration with Brown and the trade uncertainty to affect their play.
"It's unfortunate," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said. "I told him all the things we're going to miss. He was a leader for us and he keeps us focused. I don't know where his head is at. I can only speak for myself."
Yet, Bynum hardly sounded surprised about the buyout, mentioning how Fisher "had a home here." Fisher played 13 seasons for the Lakers and even opted out of his contract from Utah in 2007 to seek care in Los Angeles for his daughter, Tatum, who has a form of eye cancer. Now it remains unclear what Fisher's NBA future will entail.
"It's hard to go through what's he's going through," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "He didn't expect it or see it coming."