Derek Fisher will always be a legend to the Los Angeles Lakers fans that grew up watching him play integral roles in five different championship runs. As both a starter and reserve, he showed ridiculous amounts of character, leadership and poise under pressure. When it’s all said and done, Fisher’s jersey will hang from the rafters at Staples Center, no doubt about it.
That being said, as a player – his career is done.
The Lakers made an absolutely brilliant move last week when they swapped him out of the rotation in order to free up a.) money and b.) room for Ramon Sessions (who came via a different deal). Had Fisher remained on the roster with Sessions, there is no way he would have accepted playing limited minutes at this point of his career. That’s just as much of the reason that L.A. traded him as anything else – the squad couldn’t have an unhappy team leader undermining an already not-particularly-respected head coach.
And noting that the Lakers made this move strictly in order to save money and free up room for Sessions is fine. It’s an accurate assessment, and it doesn’t diminish anything that Fisher accomplished during his tenure with the squad. This was a business decision, and one very similar to the business decision Fisher himself made in 2004 when he left L.A. for the Golden State Warriors.
All the hurt feelings and nostalgia we've seen over the last few days are completely and totally unnecessary. The Lakers didn’t do anything that Fisher hadn’t done once himself.
According to multiple reports, Fisher is currently in Oklahoma City finalizing a deal with the OKC Thunder. While it’s great that one of the NBA's truly great guys will end up on a contender, the Thunder’s motivation behind making this move is mildly puzzling. This is a young, athletic team – do they really need the man who was inarguably the worst starting point guard in the Western Conference this season? Are they too fast and in desperate need of someone to decrease the average team speed?
Of course, this isn’t really a bad move either. Given the Thunder’s current instability at backup point, this is a win-win regardless of what happens. If he's actually needed, Fisher will step up and do what's needed. If he's not needed and gets no playing time, Fisher doesn't carry enough sway in that locker room to cause problems like he could have in L.A.
Even though OKC doesn’t actually need all of the things that Fisher brings to the table (another strong personality, someone to take the final shot, “intangibles”), having an excess of those things on a given squad is never a bad thing.
All in all, reasonable people could make a case for this being an okay move by the Thunder. But what’s key to note is that the Thunder making an okay move in picking up Fisher doesn’t make the Lakers’ decision to drop him a bad one.
It was a very, very good decision.
That said, fair warning: if Fisher hits the game-winner that knocks the Lakers out of the postseason, this piece will be deleted.