Tag:Derek Fisher
Posted on: May 20, 2010 5:42 pm

Old and slow? Maybe, but Fisher can still defend

LOS ANGELES – For three playoff series, Derek Fisher has heard about how he’s the weak link in the Lakers’ title defense. There was no way he could keep up with Russell Westbrook’s quickness, hold up against Deron Williams’ size, or stifle Steve Nash’s creativity.

“They say he’s old and slow,” noted philosopher and defensive guru Ron Artest said. “I just don’t see it.”

Nobody else does, either. And no, your eyes have not deceived you. Here are the Lakers, two wins away from a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals – and they’ve gotten here not despite Fisher, but in large part because of him.

“I guess I’m smart enough to know that if we win, it doesn’t really matter,” Fisher said. “I guess for some guys it’s harder to not take things personally and try to be who they aren’t when the goal is really to help your team advance. And when you do that, the individual things kind of mean less. I’ve said it before: I’ve never seen anything on the side of any one of my rings that says anything about points per game, percentages per game, who had the most assists, who had the most steals. It’s just a ring. It has your name on it and the team and the organization and that’s it. That’s pretty much all that matters to me.”

No, Fisher, 35, hasn’t done it all by himself against the murderer’s row of point guards the Lakers are toppling on their way to the Finals. After Westbrook sliced through the Lakers’ defense in victories at Oklahoma City in Games 3 and 4 of the first round, Kobe Bryant raised his hand after a video session and said, “I’ll take him.” Bryant slowed Westbrook down, and the Lakers haven’t lost a game since – eight in a row heading into Game 3 of the conference finals Sunday in Phoenix.

But Fisher didn’t need much help against the Williams, arguably the best point guard in the league, as the Lakers swept past the Jazz. Nash, the gold standard for modern-day point guards – or point guards of any era, really – hasn’t been able to find the kind of space and freedom he’s accustomed to with Fisher digging in and using his underrated combination of strength, quick hands and good old fashioned guile.

“He can guard all the point guards,” TNT analyst Hubie Brown told me. “Fisher, in my opinion, is one of the feistiest defensive point guards that we have in the league. He’s very cerebral. He understands the defensive game plan. You can never fall asleep with the basketball because he’s got quick reflexes and quick reactions, plus he gets a lot of deflections. Then off of his man, OK, he’s one of the best point guards that we have in the league in double-teaming and also playing the passing lane on any type of a ball reversal back to his man.”

(Note to reader: At this point in my conversation with Brown the other day, I prayed that the Lakers’ practice court would open up and swallow me. In 30 seconds, Brown had said more intelligent things about basketball than I’ve ever written. And there was more to come.)

“This guy, you don’t hide this guy,” Brown said. “Also, if you break down his game, if he’s running in transition, you never have to worry about a guy getting a clear layup because he’s going to take a charge. And in this league, that’s very difficult for guys to do no matter what size they are – to take the full contact while people are moving. So to me, he’s the total package.”

In the Lakers’ 124-112 victory over the Suns in Game 2 Wednesday night, Fisher’s numbers didn’t measure up to Nash’s – but his impact on the game far exceeded his counterpart’s. Fisher had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting with five assists, two steals and two turnovers. Nash had 11 points and 15 assists, but shot only 4-for-8 from the field with five turnovers. At key sequences in the game – when the Lakers were building an early lead and then pulling away in the fourth quarter after the Suns had tied it at 90-90 – Fisher wound up on the superior end of the action.

Late in the first quarter, Fisher intercepted a post pass from Nash as the Suns were trying to find their offensive rhythm. Late in the second quarter, Fisher hurt the Suns with his offense – finding Andrew Bynum for a dunk, hitting a corner 3-pointer and making a driving layup to give the Lakers a 65-56 halftime lead. Midway through the fourth, Fisher forced Nash into consecutive turnovers, the first leading to a corner 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar on which Nash failed to close out defensively. In 67 seconds, the Lakers stretched a six-point lead to 11 and the rout was on.

“Steve can hurt you without scoring, whereas some of the other guys at the point guard position need to score for their team to win,” Fisher said. “Overall it’s exactly the same. You want to limit penetration. You want to keep the guy in front of you. You want to make him shoot the ball over the top instead of letting him get to the rim and make plays for himself or other people. You want to make him work as hard as possible. You’re not going to stop him, but you can’t allow him to do whatever he wants to do out there. And sometimes that means sacrificing yourself, your game, your body and that means picking up some fouls to do it. Just do what it takes.”

Next up, presumably, will be the Celtics' Rajon Rondo, who has been the single most influential point guard in the postseason -- better than Williams, Nash, Jason Kidd, all of them. Once again, it will seem to be an impossible task for Fisher to hold up against Rondo's length, speed, quickness and guile. And once again, Fisher will have to find a way.

That’s what he does: whatever it takes, and more than everybody expects.

Posted on: May 18, 2010 6:26 pm

Lucky? Stoudemire shouldn't have gone there

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t able to come up with anything on the court to stop Lamar Odom from having a dominant 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. So on Tuesday, he came up with an excuse.

“I’m not giving him no hype,” Stoudemire told reporters before the Suns practiced at Staples Center. “He had a lucky game.”

Among other things, Stoudemire is known for his quotability. In a “Twitterview” with NBA media this week, I asked him how far Cleveland would’ve gone if he’d been traded there instead of Antawn Jamison. True to form, Amar’e came through with a one-word answer: “Championship.”

Beautifully done. He may or may not be right about that. But when it comes to Odom, he’s dead wrong.

And foolish for saying it.

As exhibited in the Lakers’ 128-107 victory in Game 1 Monday night, Kobe Bryant is going to get his numbers in this series. With 40 points – 35 of them by the end of the third quarter – Bryant enjoyed his sixth straight 30-point playoff performance. He seemed to relish the Suns’ strategy of trying defending him with 37-year-old Grant Hill. Bryant called that challenge “enjoyable,” and by that, he meant, “Get this old man away from me before I embarrass him.”

Whether it’s Hill or Jason Richardson or Jared Dudley, the Suns have no one who can check Bryant with any semblance of success. For that reason alone, this is going to be a long series for the Suns – or a short one, depending on how you look at it.

But to a man – including Stoudemire – the Suns have insisted that the key to challenging the Lakers is preventing Bryant’s supporting cast from hurting them. This did not go well in Game 1, with Odom’s monstrous game leading a 44-35 scoring advantage by the Lakers’ suspect bench over the Suns’ reserves, who were supposed to have been a key strength going into the series.

“[Bryant] is gonna score,” Stoudemire said after the game. “That’s one thing he’s gonna do. We know that, so we’ve got to make sure we try to contain him a little bit more. But we’ve got to close out the other guys. We’ve got to do a better job on their role players.”

The two sources of consistent production for the Lakers during their title defense have been Bryant and Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum has been in and out of the box score. Derek Fisher has made some big shots and has held up better than anyone anticipated against three prolific point guards – Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and now Steve Nash.

But during their run of postseason success in the past five years, Odom’s performance has been a tipping point for the Lakers. When he plays well, the Lakers usually win. When he plays like he did Monday night, the Lakers almost never lose.

With the possible exceptions of Bryant and LeBron James, Odom is as physically gifted as any player who’s come into the league over the past dozen years. It’s often a question of motivation, but there’s no doubting his talent.

“I’ve played with Lamar for a long time, so I wasn’t impressed,” said Ron Artest, who grew up playing with Odom on the playgrounds of Queens, N.Y. and in AAU ball. “I’ve seen him do that all the time.”

So why any opposing player would want to ignite the one area of Odom’s game that is lacking – his motivation – is beyond me. Stoudemire should know better than to rattle Odom’s cage, and he should know better than to say his performance Monday night was an aberration.

The Lakers are 9-2 this season when Odom has 15 or more rebounds, including a 17-point, 19-rebound game against Houston in January and a 10-point, 22-rebound effort against Portland in February – both wins. In his postseason career with the Lakers since the 2005-06 season, the Lakers are 7-2 when Odom has 15 or more rebounds. Four of those nine games have come against the Suns, and Odom scored in double figures in all four, as well. In those games, the Lakers are 2-2.

But even if Stoudemire forgot about those games, surely over the past five years he’s noticed at least a handful of Odom’s 47 games with 15-plus rebounds since he put on a Lakers uniform. If not, maybe he’s seen highlights of one or two of his 174 double-doubles as a Laker. During the same five-year period, Stoudemire has 28 games with 15-plus rebounds and 156 double-doubles. How many of those were luck?

After throttling Stoudemire and the Suns’ supposedly improved defense in Game 1, Odom wouldn’t engage him in a war of words Tuesday.

“I’m not gonna do that,” Odom said. “Not when it comes to basketball.”

As for his performance, Odom said, “It was good. Could be better. Hopefully I can have another lucky one.”
Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:18 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:21 am

Speed kills the Lakers again

OKLAHOMA CITY – With a signature win for a franchise on the rise, the Oklahoma City Thunder forced the defending champs to look into the future and cringe. 

The Lakers won’t know for a couple more weeks who they’ll be facing in the first round when they begin their title defense. If it’s the Thunder, who ran them out of the gym Friday night in a 91-75 rout, things could get a little uncomfortable. 

“It’s disappointing we didn’t respond to the challenge,” said Kobe Bryant, who had 11 points and nine turnovers before sitting the entire fourth quarter with fellow starters Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. “That being said, when the playoffs start, it’s a different situation.” 

Probably so. But the Lakers were reminded Friday night of a weakness that was exposed in the conference semifinals last spring against the Rockets: Quick teams and quick guards cause them problems. 

A year ago, Ron Artest was playing for the Rockets and Aaron Brooks was forcing Lakers coach Phil Jackson to protect Derek Fisher in that matchup by putting quicker guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar on Brooks for long stretches. 

“The death knell was ringing for us last year in the Houston series when Brooks was lighting us up, and we actually had to make a change a little bit in our rotation,” Jackson said. “In fact, Derek helped us out by getting suspended a game, otherwise I would’ve stuck with him. But we started playing a little different, with speed on speed in that situation. Before you know it, Fish is right back in the lineup and contributing the rest of the playoffs, and I anticipate that’s going to be his role.” 

But on Friday night, it was Russell Westbrook playing the role of Aaron Brooks, and Jackson was never able to find an answer for his speed. Westbrook had 23 points and six assists on 10-for-13 shooting with only two turnovers – despite leaving the court briefly in the second quarter with what appeared to be a badly turned ankle that caused him to miss only three minutes. 

“I tried everybody but Sasha [Vujacic] in the backcourt on him,” Jackson said. “We tried to match him and see what we could get done. And he got in a zone there in that lane, and that’s his strength.” 

Kevin Durant, who had 28 points, called Westbrook “one of the toughest players I have ever played with. … He won the game for us. He was incredible.” Oklahoma City snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers -- a streak that dates to the franchise's final days in Seattle.

These are problems the Lakers could very well have to contend with again in a month or so. The Thunder (44-27), currently in the sixth playoff spot, are only 1 1-2 games ahead of eighth-place Portland. San Antonio and Phoenix are in that mix, too. But until now, the Thunder were the biggest unknown – a team the Lakers hadn’t played since November, when L.A. handled them easily. 

This time, Oklahoma City built as much as a 33-point lead against a Lakers team that offered little resistance. What was billed as a marquee matchup of Kobe vs. Durant wound up being a layup drill with D.J. Mbenga getting posterized by Jeff Green and Durant on consecutive trips in the fourth quarter. 

“We know what San Antonio is; we know what they’re going to come out and do,” Jackson said. “We sort of have a dance that we do between us. This team is a young team with a lot energy, somebody we’re not aware of – we haven’t seen them in four months – and those things change up how you play.” 

Pau Gasol took issue with Jackson’s assessment that he played soft, but didn’t have much more to say. He discouraged the traveling analysts from reading too much into this one. 

“You don’t want to search too deeply into it,” Gasol said. “There’s nothing to search for.” 

Nor was Bryant in an inquisitive mood. Asked by a nemesis in the L.A. media if he got caught up in the competitive challenge of playing against Durant, Bryant shot him a puzzled look and said, “That’s a silly question.” 

Earlier, he was asked the same questions he’s asked every time the Lakers serve up a clunker like this: Do you have a feel for your team? Do you know what you have? 

“I will when the playoffs come around,” he said.
Posted on: December 18, 2009 4:52 pm

NBA, union to exchange proposals at All-Star

NEW YORK -- The All-Star game in Dallas will be significant for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Texas' attempt to do it bigger than anyone else in the 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium. But something else will happen behind the scenes, in a much smaller room, that will be even more critical.

Representatives from the NBA and the players' association plan to use All-Star weekend Feb. 12-14 as the first opportunity to meet face-to-face and actually exchange proposals on a new collective bargaining agreement, NBPA president Derek Fisher said Friday.

"All-Star will kind of be maybe the first real step in cracking this thing open and taking it beyond just exchanging information," Fisher said after the Lakers practiced at an East Side health club in preparation for Saturday's game at New Jersey. "I would say it would be more of an exchange of proposals. I don’t think any negotiations would begin until they see what we’re offering and we see what they’re offering."

The two sides previously met Aug. 5 in New York, where the owners officially notified the players that -- as expected -- they would not opt to extend the current agreement beyond the 2010-11 season. They've spent the past four months exchanging financial information so both sides can be on the same page once actual negotiations begin. Fisher, who met with NBPA executive director Billy Hunter Friday, said the league furnished its latest round of financials to the union about a week ago.

One person with knowledge of the situation said the league has been more forthcoming with financial data than ever before, which could be a sign of two things: 1) The data on revenues, attendance, and the like are more grim than in previous negotiations because they've been collected during a severe recession; 2) The owners, like the players, recognize the importance of avoiding a work stoppage so the NBA's growth in TV ratings and global popularity isn't stalled.

"We’re all kind of saying the same things at this point: Nobody wants a work stoppage or a lockout," Fisher said. "Let’s start working early to make sure we’re moving toward that. The conversations I’ve been a part of, that’s pretty much what it’s been. And All-Star weekend is a time where we really get the opportunity to kind of get into it, exchange proposals, exchange information, and really start to try to crack this thing open."

The NBA hasn't endured a work stoppage since the 1998 lockout, and the owners and players agreed to begin negotiations early on a new agreement that would begin with the 2011-12 season. Everything is on the table, from a new revenue sharing plan to help low-revenue teams, to the structure of the salary cap system, to the overall share of revenues that go to players and how teams hurt by lower attendance could be helped by other revenue streams. CBSSports.com reported last week that ticket revenues were down 7.4 percent league-wide through the first month of the regular season, yet the NBA has seen significant increases in national TV ratings and massive growth in its online and digital properties.

Category: NBA
Posted on: September 22, 2009 7:39 pm

Fisher: Replacement refs 'unacceptable'

Derek Fisher, the president of the NBA Players Association, has released a statement condemning the possible use of replacement referees.

This is a bold move, considering the union and league are scheduled to continue negotiations on their own collective bargaining agreement later this week in New York.

"I, along with the NBPA Executive Committee, unanimously endorse the quickest possible resolution to the negotiations between the National Basketball Referees Association and the NBA," Fisher, the Lakers' point guard, said in a statement released by the players' union. "Our referees are the best in the world at what they do and they deserve to be treated fairly.

"Players throughout the league are concerned that the use of replacement referees could compromise the integrity of our games," Fisher said. "Our fans deserve the best product that we can put on the court and that includes having the best referees. Anything less is unacceptable to our union and our members."

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:34 am

Time to re-sign, Lamar

A few weeks ago when Ron Artest decided to sign with the Lakers, one of the first things out of his mouth was this: "I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."

Artest and Odom have known each other since they were kids growing up in Queens, playing in the playgrounds and on AAU teams. As much as Artest wanted to sign with the Lakers -- even saying he'd "play there for nothing" -- it is unfathomable that he would've made such a bold career move without knowing L.O. would be on board.

This is why the posturing, the rejected offers, and the offers taken off the table over the past few weeks have been so puzzling. Well, puzzling isn't the right word. I never -- ever -- begrudge athletes, entertainers, finance people, or anybody else when they try to get paid. That is their right and that is how the game is played. An athlete's career is a nanosecond, and they should make as much money as humanly possible. You would do the same thing. So would I.

But the time has come for Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to recognize that the market is what it is for a player who might just be the best sixth man in the NBA -- but one who, nonetheless, has never made so much as an All-Star team or led the league in any major statistical category. Odom wears his heart on his sleeve and the address of the South Jamaica home where he grew up on the tongues of his sneakers. The dirty secret that Lakers management has known throughout this process is that Odom's heart is in L.A. That's where he and his sneakers belong, too.

Miami? Nice place. No state income tax. Great teammate to play with in Dwyane Wade. But adding Odom wouldn't put the Heat any closer to a title than the Lakers would be if they re-signed him. Portland? The Blazers certainly have the cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but Portland doesn't feel like the right fit for Odom.

In my mind, the only place besides L.A. that would've made sense for Odom was Boston. But the Celtics struck early in the free-agent period and signed Rasheed Wallace for a fraction of what Odom is seeking.

There will be no hard feelings on either side when, I predict, Odom relents and accepts a three-year deal from the Lakers for somewhere north of $30 million. Derek Fisher is on record saying, "We want him back badly and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days." Kobe Bryant is on record saying he's "optimistic" that Odom will return to the Lakers. It is time for those recruiting efforts and optimism to become reality.

Some people whose names end in two G's don't like Lamar Odom. They're stuck in their wistful thinking about how good he could've been if he'd applied himself or if he wanted to be one of the top five players of his era. Odom certainly has that kind of talent. But he was born to be a wingman, and life's challenges have only solidified that niche for him. The Lakers are the perfect team for him, and he for them. It's time to stop posturing and put pen to paper with the Lakers. I refuse to believe that Fisher, Bryant, and Artest will let him do anything different. If Odom knows what's good for him -- if he knows where he's wanted and where he belongs -- then he'll listen.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com