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THUNDER FYI

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher keep friendship in check during series

Former longtime teammates with the Lakers, they are not exactly hanging out with each other during L.A.-Oklahoma City semifinal series.

May 15, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher celebrates after hitting a three-pointer against the Dallas Mavericks on May 3. Fisher and former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant are putting their friendship temporarily aside as the two teams play one another in the Western Conference semifinals.
Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher celebrates after hitting a three-pointer… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kobe Bryant walked over to Derek Fisher, wrapped an arm around his former teammate's waist and patted him on the rear.

For one moment during a break in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series between the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the veteran guards who teamed for five NBA titles could safely resume their friendship.

"I asked him if he was good, he asked me if I was good, and that was it," Fisher said Tuesday of his first-quarter exchange with Bryant on Monday during the Thunder's 119-90 victory.

Bryant and Fisher will not share a sixth championship this season, so they have kept the pleasantries to a minimum in recent days. Fisher's last message to Bryant, he said, was to wish him well in Game 7 of the Lakers' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets.

"Since then," Fisher said, laughing, "we've just kind of gone to our respective corners."

Oklahoma City landed the first body blow in the series, with Fisher contributing five points, two rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes. He also shot his former teammates a glance in the fourth quarter after making a jump shot in front of the Lakers bench.

"Just one of those in-the-moment types of things," said Fisher, who spent 121/2 of his 16 seasons with the Lakers before they traded him to Houston in March and he later signed with the Thunder. "Just putting kind of a period to the ending of [Monday] night's game and just feeling good about the way we played as a team and some of the things I was able to do. No deeper meaning beyond that."

Coach Scott Brooks said Fisher hasn't offered any deep insight into his former team because "there's no secrets" when it comes to what's needed to beat the Lakers: steady defense, transition baskets and an edge in rebounding.

What Fisher has brought to the Thunder, Brooks said, is toughness, a winning mentality and a desire to improve at age 37.

"He's been in the league 16 years and he looks at himself as he's just starting in the league and he wants to keep getting better," Brooks said. "I don't think he realizes he's not going to get much better. He is what he is. But he still comes out every day to improve and it's refreshing."

Keeping it to themselves

Oklahoma City has enjoyed a swift worst-to-first turnaround in terms of turnovers.

After finishing last in the NBA by averaging 16.3 turnovers in the regular season, the Thunder has tied the Philadelphia 76ers with a league-low 11 per game in the playoffs.

The four turnovers Oklahoma City committed in Game 1 was a franchise record.

"Definitely, it's shocking," guard Russell Westbrook said. "Usually I have four by myself."

Brooks credited his team's ball movement, floor spacing and the extra week of practice it had after sweeping Dallas in the first round.

Kendrick Perkins is questionable

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins aggravated his strained right hip muscle in Game 1, leaving the game early in the third quarter. He finished with four points, two blocks and one rebound in 17 minutes.

His status for Game 2 will be a game-time decision, though it might be hard for coaches to keep him off the court.

"He's as tough as they come," Brooks said. "If they would ever do an "Avenger 2" [movie] he would probably be one of the characters — Captain America, Hulk and Perk."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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