Derek Fisher reacts after being called for a foul against Kobe Bryant in… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Guard Derek Fisher, grand old man of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is the emotional rock of an otherwise young team.
"He's the best I've played with or seen in terms of being able to address a team, talk to a team, communicate with guys in a way that's really effective," forward Nick Collison said of Fisher, 37. "It's like having another coach, but he still has the respect of the players. It doesn't feel like he's preaching at you, he just makes a lot of sense."
In that way, the Lakers can only hope that passing the rock doesn't come back to haunt them.
At the trade deadline in mid-March, the Lakers dealt Fisher and a first-round pick to Houston for center Jordan Hill. Fisher didn't want to play for the Rockets, so they bought out his contract and he signed as a free agent with the Thunder.
Oklahoma City needed his steadying hand — a hand, mind you, with five rings. Fisher played an integral role on those championship teams, draining all sorts of clutch shots to etch his place in Lakers history.
Now, close friends Fisher and Kobe Bryant, who have spent most of their 16-year careers as teammates, are squaring off against each other in the playoffs for the first time.
Three days before the Western Conference semifinals began, Fisher and Bryant agreed to curtail conversations with each other during the series.
"We've kind of gone to our respective corners," Fisher told reporters. "I think it's necessary because of our personal history and what we've accomplished together. In order for us to do what we need to do for our teams, we need to go into our space."
On Friday, Fisher for the first time was a member of the visiting team for a playoff game at Staples Center, a reality that was sobering for him and his old friends in the home locker room. He wasn't around to hear the ribbing he got from Bryant in a postgame news conference.
Fisher wasn't too effective in guarding Bryant late in the game, and his pal scored over him on consecutive trips down the court.
"Same result as all the times we played one on one in the gym," Bryant said with a smile.
"I love him, but he's a midget."
Fisher got something of a cool reaction from the L.A. crowd, one that once almost universally embraced him.
He got big cheers in his first return to Staples, but in the Thunder's 99-96 defeat Friday he drew a lukewarm response and even boos when he drove for a layup.
Asked about that reaction, he shrugged it off.
"I don't think I thought much about it coming in," he said. "I'm on a different team now. Lakers fans cheer for Lakers players. I'm no longer a Laker player so they have every right to voice their opinion.
"Wish I could have made a few more layups to get a few more boos, and maybe we would have won the game."