Let me preface this article by saying this is all speculation and not news or even a rumor.
As reported earlier, the Lakers have allegedly placed backup point guards Steve Blake and Chris Duhon on the trading block in an effort to reduce their salary this season.
As Marc Stein reports, it could be a way for Derek Fisher to rejoin his former teammates come March 15; granted he doesn’t find a team by then.
I was driving when I initially heard the rumor of Blake and Duhon being put on the trading block, and my immediate reaction was: “If the Lakers do that, they should definitely get Fisher back!”
As you may know, because of the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), a team that trades away a player whose contract extends beyond the season in which they’re traded may not return to said team via free agency for a whole calendar year. This applies to Fisher and is why he is forbidden from rejoining the Lakers until March 15, 2013.
I wasn’t sure of the exact details of the CBA, but I thought outside the box–as I’m sure Mitch Kupchak does as well–and questioned whether or not a player could return via a trade, or in this case, a sign-and-trade. So, I had a message relayed (by LakersNation’s editor-in-chief, Daniel Buerge) to Larry Coon (@LarryCoon), who is considered to be an expert on the CBA, asking if a player such as Derek Fisher could return to the Lakers via a trade. His response was: “The rule is specific to signing the player or claiming him off waivers. It doesn’t prohibit trading for him.”
Therefore, there is a “loophole” that would enable Fisher to return to the Lakers before the March 15 waiting period, and I have a feeling Lakers management has already thought this out, among other things.
It would likely be a deal in which a team signs Fisher for the veteran’s minimum (approximately $1.4 million), and then trades him to the Lakers along with cash, draft picks, or some other considerations for one of the two aforementioned players; or perhaps even both players, and the Lakers would receive two or three players (one being Fisher) in return.
Why would a team do that? Well, there’s plenty of teams who could use a backup point guard, and unless they’re immediately competing for a championship and value Fisher’s leadership, the youth of Blake or Duhon would better suit them.
To me, this would be a storybook ending for the Lakers and Derek Fisher. Additionally, although fans may be saying “Fisher’s too old, that’s why they got rid of him!” or Fisher’s stats (5.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting from the field and 31.4 percent from three-point land along with 3.3 assists as a starter for the Lakers in 25:36 minutes, and worse numbers as a reserve with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 20:18 minutes last season) were nothing to brag about, perhaps he could once again come through in the clutch and be just what the Lakers need.
Although Fisher’s stats as a Laker last season weren’t great, neither were Blake’s. Blake averaged 5.2 points on 37.7 percent shooting from the field and 33.5 shooting from behind the three-point arc while dishing out 3.3 assists in 23:18 minutes.
Duhon, for edification, averaged just 3.8 points in 19:30 minutes of play but did so at a considerably higher clip: 41.9 percent from the field and 42.0 percent from three-pointer land; he also averaged 2.4 assists.
The bottom line here is that although either Blake or Duhon are needed to keep Steve Nash’s minutes down, paying two relatively high salaries to do so doesn’t make sense when only one will likely be getting the minutes–the same reason Fisher was actually traded last season after the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions. For this team, however, it’s necessary to have two backups for Nash because at his age (38), the Lakers simply can’t afford to have him playing heavy minutes if one of the reserves goes down, but they are also looking to find a more efficient way of doing it.
Additionally, given Fisher’s career durability and trust among Kobe Bryant, he could be the man for the job. Similarly, although Fisher may not be able to put up eye-popping numbers, when he’s on the floor, he knows how to control the game and especially knows how to lead his teammates. In other words, Mike Brown would be able to rest Nash as much as possible with Fisher on the court, whereas he may not be able to do so as comfortably with Blake or Duhon.
Fisher has played on teams with loads of talent before, and simply knows the right plays to make. His skill-set is nowhere near that of Nash’s, but his cool, calm, and collect manner on the court would ensure that a leader at the point guard position is ever-present.
The only problem I could see here is a clash of too many leaders on one court. Between Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Derek Fisher, the team could potentially have too many veteran voices. Nash and Fisher are ultimate professionals, however, so I wouldn’t see it as much of a problem.
Fisher was recently spotted training with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Segundo during informal workouts prior to training camp, so this could be a sign that he’s still interested in being a Laker. If he doesn’t find a new team soon, he may end up waiting until March to do so–as long as the Lakers still want him.
Another option the Lakers could be eying is Leandro Barbosa.
Next Page: What About Leandro Barbosa?