Derek Fisher won't be wearing a Lakers uniform anymore. (Harry E. Walker / MCT / March…)
The Lakers lost their composure.
Andrew Bynum showed frustration with the officiating. Lakers Coach Mike Brown showed frustration with the team's defense. All the players showed frustration with yet another poor road performance where they squandered a double-digit lead.
Derek Fisher wouldn't have solved the Lakers' on-court execution in their 107-104 loss Tuesday to the Houston Rockets. But he would've been there in the locker room to calm everyone down.
He wasn't there, though. The Lakers traded him last week to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill. So after accepting a buyout from the Rockets, Fisher is looking to sign with a championship-contending team, reportedly with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It's been easy to gloss over Fisher's absence. Ramon Sessions' speed, ability to drive to the basket and quick acclimation instantly has bolstered the Lakers' point-guard production. But the Lakers' loss to Houston illustrates the uncertainty of how the Lakers will absorb Fisher's ability to ensure the locker room doesn't remain significantly fractured.
"When you lose somebody like him, there's going to be a void or a vacuum that exists for X amount of days," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged last week. "Hopefully as each day passes, it gets less and less."
With how fragile any semblance of progress has remained this season, that requires a great leap of faith.
A signature win Feb. 4 against Miami preceded two consecutive losses to Eastern Conference bottom dwellers against Detroit and Washington where the Lakers coughed up double-digit leads. After putting together a five-game winning streak, the Lakers did the same thing this week in losses to Utah and Houston. The Lakers allowed opponents to score more than 100 points only seven times in the first 35 games, but they could only crack the 100-point barrier six times. In the past 11 games, they have scored at least 100 points in six of those contests, but they allowed opponents to surpass the 100-point mark in seven of those games.
Fisher contributed to those problems with his inconsistent shooting and slow reaction on defense. But his frequent meetings emphasizing the need to get over the frustration with the roster uncertainty and the coaching staff prevented a big problem from getting worse.
"That's one of the many things he did for his team," Brown said of Fisher's leadership. "Overall, myself, the coaching staff, Kobe [Bryant], the rest of the players, we're all professionals. We all know to do whatever it takes to win."
It remains to be seen if that will actually work.
Bryant still assumes his co-captain position and leads through his talent and work ethic. But he doesn't have the personality and patience to assuage his teammates' frustration level. Pau Gasol has assumed the co-captain role, but he always defers to Bryant and doesn't have the same willingness to challenge Bryant as Fisher did. General Manager Mitch Kupchak argued that Brown will take a larger leadership role, but players have already shown this season that the new Lakers' coach has hardly earned their trust. Bynum has progressed as a player, but episodes like his ejection shows he hardly has the maturity and locker-room clout in providing leadership.
If the Lakers start winning, Fisher's absence will soon become a non-issue. But in a season filled with change, it's more likely they would've needed a stabilizing force. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that no longer includes Fisher. And they'll continue to discover how much they truly miss him the longer their adversities persist.
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