Sometimes the reality of a situation takes a little while to fully sink in. Your brain may process the information and comprehend it, but your heart isn’t capable of accepting it. The information that your brain is trying to convince you is fact is being refuted by your heart.
Ironically, the Lakers have refuted their own heart.
When the team let Derek Fisher go on Thursday for nothing more than a convenience, part of their soul went with him.
It has truly been a changing of the guard for the Lakers over these past few months. The remnants of the old republic have been swept away, leaving only a few, hardened soldiers left to pick up the pieces and lead the newcomers forward.
The departure of Derek Fisher signifies so much more than the loss of 5.9 points and 3.3 assists per game. To many people Fisher has become another punchline. An easy target for jokes about old age and declining productivity.
But to others Fisher represents the last piece of a puzzle long since taken apart. He was that key cornerstone piece. The one that sits on the border of the puzzle and almost acts like two separate pieces. The entire integrity of that puzzle relies on that corner piece.
As an anchor. A foundation that you work around.
The Lakers have finally parted ways with their faithful corner piece. And, as so commonly happens in the cutthroat business of professional sports, he was discarded as quickly as a child putting his puzzle away, unceremoniously dumping them back into the box.
When it comes to pure logic, the move makes some sense. After acquiring Ramon Sessions from the Cavaliers the team found themselves with a logjam at the point guard position. Once their attempt to solve this situation by sending Steve Blake to Portland fell apart, they were left scrambling with few options.
So they did what they had to do.
Unfortunately, in times like these it’s hard to accept this as reality. It’s so much easier to simply deny it, trying to convince yourself you’ll wake up the next morning and it’s all been a bad dream.
This is no dream. It’s a cold splash of reality right in the face.
Houston Rockets’ point guard, Derek Fisher.
It sounds blasphemous to say. In fact, even typing it for the first time seemed wrong. Fisher has been one of the biggest parts of this organization since being drafted back in 1996. Sure, he spent a few years flirting with other suitors. But he came back. And when he did, it felt so right.
But all good things must come to an end. And this seems to be what we have here. The end.
During his press conference on Thursday afternoon, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was asked about the possibility of Fisher ever returning to the Lakers.
His response? Candid, to say the least. It’s not happening.
Fisher is 37 years old. His best days are long behind him. Despite his unbelievable conditioning, it’s safe to say that almost every game you get out of Fisher these days is a blessing. It’s obvious that the front office understood this. They wouldn’t have made the move if they didn’t.
But at what cost? What are the Lakers really giving up besides those six points and three assists?
They’re giving up their heart.
Fisher has been the glue for this team through some sticky situations. For all the nonsense about Kobe Bryant’s inability to win without Shaquille O’Neal, remember that Bryant still hasn’t won without Fisher.
For Bryant, Fisher was his portal to reality. He was the weight tightened securely around his ankles, keeping him grounded. Fisher was who Bryant would listen to. And if you don’t think that’s important, remember that Bryant hardly even listens to his coaches.
There have been rumblings about Bryant’s feelings towards the trade. With the zookeeper on the way to Houston, who’s going to be there to put the venomous snake back in his cage when he steps out of line? Who’s going to be the one to step up to Bryant and actually be acknowledged? It better be somebody.
This is the area where the business becomes so sticky. The way Fisher is leaving feels so wrong. It feels so cheap and violating. It’s an unfulfilled sense of emotion that is impossible to quench. The feeling in your stomach that is so intense it wipes away your appetite.
Fisher has been there for his team more times than any of us can count. He’s been the player who makes the big plays on the court and keeps heads cool off of it. And now it’s over.
I have little doubt that Fisher will be remembered as an all-time Laker legend. He has as many championships with the team as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And he was crucial in every one of those runs.
So while we may be forced to wish farewell to Fisher in this rushed, barbaric ritual, we certainly don’t have to like it. Slowly things will get better. The team will move on and so will Fisher. But it will take a long time for us to accept the way this happened, even if logically we’re told it makes sense.
There will never be a day when we think of any other team when someone mentions Derek Fisher.
Derek Fisher is the Lakers.
Derek Fisher is their heart.