After the Los Angeles Lakers repeated as world champions last month, I wrote a column that proclaimed Mitch Kupchak is the J.K. Rowling of NBA general managers .
I praised the Lakers GM for keeping Kobe Bryant in purple and gold, for landing Pau Gasol in the most crooked acquisition since the Louisiana Purchase, and for intricately constructing the 2008-09 and 2009-10 title teams.
I spoke so highly of Kupchak, you would have thought he was on the verge of signing me to a lucrative deal with the Lakers.
But just as impressions of the U.S. president change all the time, so too do opinions in sports. One minute we are gushing over a guy, the next minute we want to grill him.
Kupchak is not quite ready to be roasted, but if he proceeds to persistently spit in free agent Derek Fisher's face by not upping the Lakers' reported offer of $2.5 million for one year, Kupchak will soon become nothing more than the NBA GM equivalent of an amateur author.
Sure Fisher might be functioning on his last starting point guard legs, and sure, he posted what appear to be backup numbers last season (7.5 points, 2.5 assists and 38 percent field goal shooting). After all, Fisher's overall performance last season was more like a precipice.
The soon-to-be 36-year old holds the second-longest active streak for consecutive games played (413), including five straight seasons in which the bulldog has battled for all 82 regular season affairs. Not only was Fisher just one of two Lakers to play in every game this past season—and the sole starter to do so—but he also led the team in free throw percentage.
Fisher's greatest contribution, however, came in Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals, when the 14-year vet single-handedly stole Game 3 from the Boston Celtics, scoring 11 points in the final frame to secure a 2-1 series lead and regain the homecourt advantage (which would ultimately prove to be the difference between an L.A. repeat and Boston's 18th title).
Since selecting Fisher with the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Lakers have supremely profited from his mere presence. With D-Fish on the roster, L.A. has made seven NBA Finals appearances in an 11-season span—the most since the Boston Celtics strung together 10 from 1958-69 when less than half of today's 30 teams existed. What's more, of the 11 Larry O'Brien trophies the Lakers have accumulated in Los Angeles, Fisher has played a fundamental role in five of them.
But perhaps the most important part about Fisher's L.A. residence isn't rooted in his winning ways or unprecedented experience with the Lakers. Perhaps the most important is that it has paved the path for Kobe to culminate his career where it all commenced—a career that will help L.A. compete for another handful of rings by the time Bryant calls it quits.
If Fisher finds himself playing for another team in the fall, how will Kobe cope without his right-hand man? Heck, how will the Lakers as a whole deal with Derek's departure? After Fisher fled L.A. in 2004, Phil Jackson branded Bryant "uncoachable" in his book and left the coaching reigns to Rudy Tomjanovich, who abandoned ship after 53 games. The Lakers went on to miss the ensuing postseason for the first time in 10 years.
As the negotiation process continues between Derek Fisher's camp and Mitch Kupchak, L.A.'s immediate success—or lack thereof—lies in the hands of those who hold the best cards. Fortunately for Fisher, he is sitting pretty with pocket rockets, waiting to call the Purple and Gold bluff.
If the Lakers want to reign supreme for at least another season, Kupchak should stop bluffing with his two-seven off-suit of an offer.
You can contact Josh Hoffman at JHoffMedia@gmail.com.