A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout Los Angeles Monday afternoon.
After being courted by the (suddenly evil) Miami Heat all weekend, Derek Fisher announced via a statement on his Web site that he will be returning to the Los Angeles Lakers next season.
The five-time NBA champion and valuable clutch veteran entertained offers from at least four other teams including the Heat. Ultimately, he chose to not leave the franchise he has spent 11 of his 14 seasons with.
As his team limped to a 4-7 finish to the 2009-10 regular season, Fisher heard his fair share of criticism. He was too old to start, too slow defensively and too much of a gunner on offense. Then, with the series on the line in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, he provided the Lakers with an 11 point fourth quarter to make the fans fall in love with him again. A clutch 3-pointer in Game 7 of the Finals cemented it: Fisher needed to stay.
The Lakers “vocal leader” and second coming of Robert Horry averaged a mere 7.5 points on 38 percent shooting last season. The playoffs were a bit kinder to Fisher, as his averages went up to 10.3 points on 44.8 percent shooting.
Still, those numbers don’t show how steadying of a locker room force Fisher is. At the end of the day, you can’t put a value on leadership.
The Lakers lost Jordan Farmar to the New Jersey Nets early Monday morning, but did sign experienced guard Steve Blake last week.
By re-signing Fisher, the Lakers shored up their point guard hole while dealing a blow to their (suddenly new) rivals, the Heat. Miami was counting on Fisher’s leadership and experience to help guide the new threesome of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to their first title (together), but Fisher’s heart remained in L.A.