It hasn’t been a pretty season for Derek Fisher. Though his assists have been up, his scoring had dipped to a paltry 4.3 ppg coming into Monday night, his lowest average since his rookie season. Likewise, his shooting has been, how shall I put it, horrific. Besides being 4-20 from the three-point line Fisher was shooting a career low .338 from the field before the Lakers’ matchup with the Mavs. And let’s not even talk about his defense, as opposing point guards continue to feast on his aging body.
Yet despite all that, when his moment arrived versus Dallas Fisher was ready, and once again he proved a maxim he’s been living by his whole career: When it comes to Derek Fisher, numbers mean nothing.
Looking back on his time in Los Angeles Fisher has underlined many of the important points in Lakers history with his clutch play. Some of those moments need barely any description at all to conjure lasting images in the minds of Lakers’ fans. There is 0.4 versus San Antonio, Game 3 in Boston, Game 4 in Orlando. Yet despite his track record of success in key moments the obviousness of his lack of production hounds him.
His detractors point to the numbers as proof that Fisher should be put out to pasture. And let’s be honest, from a standpoint of production, Fisher may be the worst starting point guard in the NBA.
ESPN’s John Hollinger, the epitome of a numbers guy, offered his concluding pre-season analysis of Fisher:
“…the guy averaged 9.4 points per 40 minutes, shot 38.6 percent on 2-pointers, can’t create off the dribble, and can’t keep quick guards in front of him. It’s become increasingly difficult to defend the idea that Fisher should remain a 30-minute starter. If we’re being brutally honest, on many rosters he wouldn’t even be the backup.”
There is no disputing that the statistical picture of Fisher is a bleak one. If we were a general manager judging blindly on raw numbers and nothing else there’s no doubt Fisher would be the first guy cast off the Lakers roster. The thing is, that’s not the only way to judge a player’s impact.
People talk about intangibles in sports, about timeliness, about a knack for subverting the odds when they’re stacked against you. That’s Derek Fisher. That’s who he has been his entire career.
It’s not to say that the Lakers don’t need an upgrade at point guard. For the first 45 minutes of most games Lakers fans often find themselves wincing at Fisher’s lack of production, his inability to finish or his (at times) lead footed defense when matched up against quicker guards. But in those final three, is there anyone else you’d rather rely on than Fish?
The Lakers as a team were 0-9 from three before Fisher knocked in the game winner against the Mavericks on Monday. In a way, it’s the perfect metaphor for what’s Fish’s career has been all about. Maligned right up until the moment when he makes a play that saves the game.
Sure, when you judge him by the numbers Fisher may seem to fall short. But when the chips are down and you need a big play, it’s Fisher who stands above the rest.
“I mean this is what I do,” Fisher said in the locker room following Monday’s game, “When opportunities like that present themselves I’m confident in myself to step up and make the right play…”
Time and again he has proven himself capable. Over and over he has demonstrated that when you’re Derek Fisher, numbers mean nothing.