Oh, nostalgia. How you doom us all to abandon reason for madness.
This morning it was reported by Marc Stein of ESPN that former Laker Derek Fisher is actually eligible to return to Los Angeles, and has been so since July 1. This is contrary to prior beliefs that he would be unable to rejoin his former team until a full calendar year had passed since he was initially traded.
Here’s what Stein had to say on Tuesday morning.
“Sources briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.”
Of course once this news broke Laker fans around the globe were clamoring for the return of Fisher to Los Angeles. Words like “leader” and “veteran” were commonplace, as people were convinced that if something worked before it would most certainly work again.
Unfortunately the facts don’t really back that theory up. Especially in this case.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as big of a Derek Fisher advocate as there is. I was disappointed when they let him go last season, even though I understood the reasoning behind the decision. Fisher always represented stability and reason in a locker room that was generally marred with discontent and hostility. Fisher kept Kobe at bay, and was one of the only men on the planet capable of holding onto the mad dog’s leash without losing a limb. But those days have long since passed, and any delusions of Fisher returning to the Lakers and being the final piece to their championship puzzle is nothing more than a pipe dream.
First let’s take a look at the situation from the Lakers’ perspective.
Right now they’re a team with enough talent to contend for the NBA title. They’re one of maybe three or four teams in this league that can say that legitimately. That right there is impressive enough. But there are certainly question marks in certain places on the roster, and holes that will need to be filled if the team is to ever achieve its full potential.
The biggest of these question marks is currently their backup point guard slot. While Steve Nash is still an All-Star caliber player, he’s 38 years-old and will need a drastic minute reduction this season if he still hopes to be productive in the month of May (and hopefully June). For the Lakers to reach their ultimate goal this season, they’re going to have to sacrifice a few things along the way. It may cost them a win or two in the process, but Nash is going to need to flutter around 30 minutes per game to assure that he isn’t burnt out by the time the postseason rolls around.
So how do they make this happen?
The more minutes Nash sits on the bench the better, but in turn that means the more minutes his replacement will have to absorb on the court. A lack of production from his replacement ultimately means the coaching staff has no choice but to put him back out on the floor to try and restore order, possibly compromising his body in the process.
That’s not good for Nash. It’s not good for the Lakers. It’s not good for anyone.
In order for Nash to keep his 38-year-old backside planted firmly on the team bench the Lakers will need a productive, quality replacement player that can sustain their flow on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t need to be Steve Nash, in fact he doesn’t even need to be Ramon Sessions, but he needs to be able to earn the trust of his teammates and coaches by offering quality minutes to the extent that they’re confident leaving him in the game for extended periods of time while allowing Nash to rest.
Is Derek Fisher that guy? Is he capable of providing this for the Los Angeles coaching staff? Considering he’s only six months younger than Nash I wouldn’t be willing to bet on it. And the numbers from last season confirm what should already be common knowledge – Fisher is no more productive than the pair of guards currently slated to hold the job.*
As you can see, Fisher isn’t bringing anything to the table that the team doesn’t already have. In fact, he’s bringing virtually the same statistics but with more miles and minutes on his body. Statistically, and physically, there is no upside to bringing in Fisher to replace either Blake or Duhon.
How about a mental advantage? That seems to be the most popular reasoning I have seen behind those hoping for a Fisher/Laker reunion tour. Let me show you some examples.
— Chuck Zambito (@zambito24) October 16, 2012
@danielbuerge_la he brings stability and experience
— ORyanStarr (@rvelasc0) October 16, 2012
@danielbuerge_la maybe not but we need our locker room leader back
— Kobe Son(@MillzayTaughtYu) October 16, 2012
So that’s the consensus. The Lakers need Fisher because he’s heady, savvy, and would be a calming influence in the locker room and provide some veteran leadership.
Veteran leadership? Is a team comprised of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lacking veteran leadership? I don’t doubt for one second that Fisher could have a positive influence in the locker room, but at what expense? And is that really something the Lakers desperately need right now? Their starting lineup alone has 12 NBA Finals appearances, with a former Sixth Man of the Year coming off the bench. Savvy, veteran voices aren’t something this team is short of heading into the season.
The point is simple, really. Fisher wouldn’t give the Lakers what they need. He’s not a guy who can still play productively for 15-20 minutes per game. He’s certainly still capable of hitting a big shot here and there, but in the closing minutes of a close game who do you think would be on the floor, him or Steve Nash? The ability to hit a big shot is wasted if you’re never in a position to take that shot in the first place.
If the Lakers are looking to upgrade their backup point guard position, which it seems that they may, Derek Fisher just doesn’t offer enough of an upside to make the move over what they currently have. So while we sit and reminisce about the days of old when Fisher was burying game-winning shots with less than a second to go, or inserting a knife squarely into the neck of Stan Van Gundy’s porous defensive schemes, the simple truth is that those days are gone for a reason.
Fisher was a great contributing player for many years in Los Angeles, but don’t let the emotion of the past cloud the facts of the present. And the facts clearly state that Derek Fisher is not the answer to this particular question.