I remember it vivdly.
The 1996 pre-season was my first glimpse of Derek Fisher, the point guard the Lakers had drafted that summer. My first response when I saw him?
“Fuck, he’s built like a thumb”.
Sixteen years and 5 championship rings later, Derek Fisher has been shipped off to Houston, yet another notch on the belt of the still-undefeated father time. Sentimentality aside, the move makes sense. The acquisition of Ramon Sessions meant one of the Lakers’ four point guards had to go, and the 37 year old Fisher was the odd man out.
Them’s the breaks.
From a basketball standpoint, Fisher’s time has been up for quite awhile now. Long past his prime, unable to stay in front of almost every guard he faced, and now struggling to hit jumpers on a consistent basis, the only value he carried on this team was his leadership and poise. Watching him flail around for the last few years, those squatty legs pumping frantically, has been a bittersweet experience. Every now and then, Fish was still good for a game winner, or willing to sacrifice his body to draw a charge, but that was pretty much it. Still, it seemed that as long as he still wore the purple and gold, they’d be trotting him out there to give it his best shot.
Alas, that’s no longer an option.
Hey, I could probably spend the next three hours reeling off DFish stories, but any Laker fan worth his salt already knows them all by heart. All the big shots, the hustle plays, the professional demeanor, the leadership. None of it will be forgotten. Yeah, he’s not a hall of famer, but he might as well be as far as Laker fans are concerned.
Sure, some will question this move, moved by sentimentality to decry the trading of such an icon. Hell, some people will even wonder if this will affect Kobe’s performance, as if such a thing is possible. Not me, though.
Me, I’ll miss Fisher and fondly remember all he did for the Lakers, but time marches on, always. If the Lakers are to make any noise in the last few years of the Kobe era, there is simply no time to get mushy. Win or perish, so to speak.
So fare thee well, Fish. Thanks for the ride, thanks for the shots, and thank you so very much for saving us from Smush Parker.
We’ll always owe you for that one.