On paper, the Los Angeles Lakers look like the best team in the NBA. As we know all too well, games are not played on paper, so the widely-held assumption that the Lakers will be crowned NBA champions doesn't mean anything.
In fact, there are a lot of ways this team, which is composed of superstar talents like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, could fall apart in a hurry. But there is one player out there who could bring it all together.
As strange as it is to say that a 38-year-old point guard who shot 34 percent from the field and averaged less than five points per game last season is the glue to a team with players like Bryant and Howard, there is something to the idea of leadership and ego-checking in the NBA.
Sources briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.
Think back, if you would, to the 2003-04 season. The Lakers already had Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal on the roster, then added Gary Payton and Karl Malone in free agency. Everyone assumed they were going to walk to a title.
Things fell apart, though not until they made the NBA Finals. While Fisher was part of that team, he hadn't built up the credibility in the locker room that is needed to take control of things when they are divided.
We have no idea how all these huge personalities are going to fit together, but we do know that Fisher can make the transition easier with his calming presence and ability to act as a second coach.
Bryant loves Fisher and what he adds to the team. Howard is a young star still trying to figure out how to handle himself in a market that makes Orlando look like some third-rate city in Wyoming.
The Lakers need Fisher, even if he only averages one point per game. His ability to teach and occasionally hit a shot here and there makes him an integral part to what the Lakers are trying to build right now.
Fisher is just waiting for the call, but the ball is in L.A's court.
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