Thunder point guard Derek Fisher high-fives forward Kevin Durant after… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
Like anyone who has ever abruptly dumped a longtime love, the Lakers sent Derek Fisher away last week with one quiet but distinct hope.
They didn't want to see him any time soon.
You know the feeling, right? You run into an old partner shortly after a breakup and it's like, um, er, ah, get me out of here!
All of which made it deliciously awkward this week when the spurned Fisher calmly walked down the driveway, turned left, and moved into the flashy house next door.
After being dumped during his 16th season because he was no longer pretty enough and suddenly cost too much, Fisher could have gone anywhere from remote Houston to distant Miami but decided instead to drop his bags in the one place that currently shadows the Lakers, taunts the Lakers, and could eventually roll over and crush the Lakers.
Look across the yard and cover your eyes, Lakers fans.
Yes, D-Fish is really in OKC.
A week after being shipped out, Fisher is back and bigger than ever, signing with an Oklahoma City team that has become the Lakers' most serious rival and roadblock in returning to the NBA Finals.
In attempting to wipe away the guy like a bad dream, the Lakers only empowered him to become their biggest nightmare.
"I think it's perfect," Lakers center Andrew Bynum told reporters.
Oh, it's perfect, all right. It's a perfect storm that could blow away the Lakers this spring if Fisher plays any sort of role in a potential conference finals between his new team and old one.
Knowing Fisher, even if he's on the court for only point-four seconds, he'll figure out a way to haunt.
"I'm going to be so tight if we see them in the conference final and he hits a big shot," Bynum said. "I'm going to be like, 'Yo, that's crazy.' "
You know what's even crazier? If he does hit that shot, he'll be doing it with a giant taunt on his jersey.
Fisher will be wearing the No. 37 to represent his age, a number that symbolizes a savvy that the Lakers completely discounted when trading him.
"Especially this season, it seemed to be a negative thing that I was 37," Fisher told reporters. "So I just wanted to send a message that the Thunder organization and I see it as a positive that I'm a guy that can still help a team be successful and compete for a championship at the age of 37."
To be honest, if he wanted to symbolize his age, Lakers fans wouldn't be surprised if he wore the No. 50, as he finished his career here as a creaky shooter and plodding defender.
But Fisher's value is no longer in his physical skills, it's in his veteran leadership. And if that's as trivial as the Lakers believed, then why did two teams ahead of them in the standings so vehemently disagree?
After a buyout of his contract by the Rockets, where he was initially traded, Fisher was strongly courted by the Heat and Thunder. Those teams are considered the two co-favorites to win this year's title. Those teams can't afford sentiment for the sake of wins, and there was no way they would risk shaking up their locker room culture with an aging old Laker unless they thought he could still help them win.
"He has winner all over his DNA," Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said. "You can never have enough winners in your locker room."
Obviously, not everyone agrees.
"He's got great poise, he's got a great basketball IQ, great recognition on both ends of the floor," said Sam Presti, the Thunder's general manager.
To which Jim Buss says, meh.
"I think Oklahoma got better, which is not good news for us," Pau Gasol said.
Make no mistake, at last week's trade deadline, the Lakers also got better. It has been quickly obvious that Ramon Sessions, the acquired point guard who made Fisher expendable, brings a quickness and athleticism that could be worth at least one playoff round this spring.
With Sessions, the Lakers play more aggressive defense, flow better on offense, and have probably extended Kobe Bryant's chance to win a sixth championship.
But keeping Fisher would have cemented that chance. Keeping Fisher would not have slowed Sessions. Keeping Fisher's cool head and calm voice may have helped prevent the recent Bynum meltdown, and would have certainly slowed the oncoming friction that could occur between the blossoming Bynum and the guy — you know, Kobe — who won't pass him the ball enough.
Why did it have to be Sessions or Fisher? Why couldn't it have been them both?
Lakers sources will say they were worried that Fisher's ego couldn't have handled a largely diminished role. Yet he turned down a chance to start for Houston. And after one game in Oklahoma City, in which he came off the bench and played 19 minutes in a blowout of the Clippers, he seems to be handling that smaller role just fine.
To those Lakers officials who didn't want Derek Fisher on their bench, well, enjoy him now, at your doorstop, on your rivals, in your heads.