While the Jazz were coming off a successful playoff run, the Lakers had ended another forgettable season, suffering a first-round loss for the second straight year to their hated rivals, the Phoenix Suns. Kobe Bryant’s early dismissal provided him too much extra time for his mounting frustration to reach its boiling point. He publicly expressed his desire to be traded unless the Lakers were willing to make the moves necessary to become a championship caliber team. Who could blame Kobe for being angry that he had to share a backcourt with guys like Smush Parker, Chucky Atkins, Shammond Williams, Tony Bobbitt, Tierre Brown, and Von Wafer? The Lakers knew they had to pull the plug on their lone superstar act and find a supporting cast able to fully compliment Kobe’s talent.
As the Lakers front office hoped to appease their superstar, they needed to find a player Kobe would respect, a person he could trust, and someone who shared his insatiable desire to win. Fisher was the perfect fit for the Lakers. The team needed him. But more importantly, Kobe needed him on his side: to be the Watson to his Holmes, the Schneider to his Sandler, the Pesci to his De Niro. And once Pau Gasol arrived in Los Angeles, Phil Jackson knew he had a capable crew of goodfellas.