Former Laker and seven-time NBA Champion Robert Horry has never shied away from taking the big shot in a big game. He’s also not afraid to speak his mind and tell you that his former team is in desperate need of a new point guard and would be wise to replace the long running Derek Fisher with a younger model.
"I think they need another good point guard,” Horry told the Los Angeles Times. “No disrespect to Derek Fisher. But Derek is long in the tooth. I've been there, done that. I understand that. They need to get a point guard who can distribute the ball, get people in order and not be afraid to tell Kobe [Bryant], 'no.'"
It’s interesting that Horry, considered one of the top clutch shooters in Lakers playoff history, should be the one to call for the removal of a former teammate who many observers feel ranks right up there with him in that category.
D-Fish has five championship rings and has single-handedly won huge postseason games for the Lakers with acrobatic, desperate, last-second shots when no one else wanted to take them.
Yet, there’s a reason Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak drafted point guards with the first two picks the team had in last month’s draft. Horry’s brash comments may have seemed a bit off-putting coming from a former Laker. But, his honesty was spot-on and deserves further analysis.
Fisher, 36, has had a remarkable career and lasted far longer than most experts would have predicted when he was drafted by Los Angeles in 1996 from lightly regarded Arkansas-Little Rock.
So, whether it’s this season or next, the Lakers and Coach Mike Brown will likely be featuring someone new at the point position sooner than later.
The question then becomes: do you utilize the Band-Aid method and bring in a veteran for a year or two until one of the young draft picks is ready to take over? Do you look to make a blockbuster trade that brings a proven All-Star to the team and risk giving up one of your key pieces? Or, do you just decide there’s no time like the present and throw the prized rookie into the fire?
Let’s take a look at five players who may eventually replace, (or succeed) D-Fish and thus start a new chapter in Lakers history. I think there's a reasonable chance of landing any one of them.
And by the way, Chris Paul, pictured above and considered one of the league's elite point guards, is not one of the chosen few...simply because he may be too costly for most teams, including L.A.
Darren Collison would be a sensational successor to Derek Fisher at point guard. If the Lakers were able to pry the 23-year-old California native loose from the Pacers.
A big "if".
The former UCLA standout spent his first season as a backup to Chris Paul in New Orleans before being traded to Indiana, where he averaged 13.2 points per game last year while playing 30 minutes a contest.
At 6 feet and 160 pounds, Collison is one of those whippet-fast, quick penetrating point guards the Lakers have had so much trouble with in the past. Exactly the type of player they now need on their side of the ball.
Collison averages a little over five assists per game and is only getting better with that part of his game. He's a decent outside shooter, though he dropped from 40 percent shooting in 2009-10 to 33 percent from beyond the arc.
Collison is in the second tier, below the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, both of whom seem untouchable at this point in their career.
Whatever the trade scenario, the Lakers would need to give up some quality in order to land a young prize like Darren Collison.
But, seeing as how his entire career is in front of him, it would be worth the gamble to possibly trade Lamar Odom and one of the two rookie guards the team just drafted in order to get the speedy point guard.
The 21-year-old Jennings has performed reasonably well in his first two seasons, though my thought is he is expendable if the Lakers could offer up some size and experience in the front court.
Jennings is another Los Angeles native and would fit into the role as point guard of the future very nicely. In two seasons, the 6'1", 170-pound Jennings has become a good scorer and a decent passer who will only get better with experience.
Jennings averaged 16.2 ppg on 39 percent shooting during the past season. He hit on 33 percent from three-point range, an area that will also get better with time.
The Bucks have Jennings, Livingston, Beno Udrih, and Earl Boykins as point guards and so it would seem they'd be willing to shop one of them.
Aaron Brooks, 26, would seem to be an ideal candidate to step in for Derek Fisher at point guard next season. He is a restricted free agent in Phoenix and the Suns are pulling out all the stops in an effort to sign him as their point guard of the future.
Splitting his season between Houston and Phoenix, Brooks averaged 10.7 points and 3.9 assists while playing 21.8 minutes per game.
Given the fact that Fisher is still capable of 15-20 solid minutes, Brooks would be an excellent choice to handle the point guard chores and they could take turns spelling each other over the course of games.
Brooks is another one of those small (6 feet, 160 pounds), quick guards who gives the Lakers fits. That is why he'd be a great fit for the aging Lakers: he would pick up the pace and help prolong careers on a roster of Thirty Somethings; those being Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Fisher.
You'll notice the player who seems to be having some trouble staying with the Hornets' Jarrett Jack is the Lakers point guard, Steve Blake. Enough said.
Jack is not Chris Paul...but then, who is of that caliber other than Derrick Rose and maybe Russell Westbrook?
But what Jack would bring to the Lakers is leadership skills and a bulldog approach to the game, much like Fisher. The 6'3", 200 pound sixth year point guard has played for Portland, Indiana, Toronto and New Orleans since being drafted in 2005 out of Georgia Tech.
Jack would help settle the Lakers back court without costing them an arm and a leg. He is a 45 percent field goal shooter to go along with his proficiency at the charity stripe (85 percent for his career).
Jack also averages four assists per contact and twice has been at five or more dimes per game.
Jack will turn 28 as the new season begins this fall. He's had the experience and is at that age where he's ready for more of a starring role. Averaging 27 minutes, Jack scores just over 10 points per game.
This would be a great move for the Lakers.
Tony Parker only looks like he doesn't have a clue. In reality, he is one of the best point guards of the past decade whose welcome mat in San Antonio has become a bit thin.
Parker has accomplished enough accolades in San Antonio to last a lifetime. He's 29 and may be nearing the end of his stay in San Antonio because the Spurs are looking to the future and realize they still have a prized piece on their roster who could fetch them a high draft pick or bring a young future star into the fold.
According to ESPN.com, Tony Parker has been one of the most prolific scorers inside of five feet the past three seasons. He actually has outscored the Lakers' Kobe Bryant by 20 despite playing in 35 fewer games.
Parker is one of the most feared guards in the paint in the NBA. The Lakers would be forced to pay dearly to get a player of his caliber and this is one deal that might be extremely hard, given the fact that the two franchises dislike each other and often meet in the playoffs.
Despite some injuries, Parker has another 4-5 good years left in the league. He'll enter this season with a 16.7 scoring average, close to six assists per game and a workman like 33 minutes of playing time every time the Spurs step onto the court.
The rumors of Parker being dealt near the draft deadline in June were strong and legitimate. Whether the team would consider a swap with the Lakers remains to be seen. I could see the team offering a swap that included a guard or two (veteran and rookie), one big man (Odom) and a draft choice.
Coach Greg Popovich is one of the game's most astute and he was angry over L.A.'s acquisition of Pau Gasol in February 2008. He may not wish to go down that road with Parker with the fear that he gets the short end of the stick.
Still, it's worth the effort for the Lakers to take a chance on getting Parker. He would be an upgrade from D-Fish on many levels and could be the ticket to next year's NBA Finals.