It’s really hard to look at this situation without any bias. As a Laker fan I love Derek Fisher and I’m glad he’ll be back to help us get through the playoffs. As a Laker fan I also wish he’d have taken the high road and retired after the 2009-10 season and am in utter shock he will be brought back to get burned on defense throughout the regular season.
Before I start writing this article, let’s get the “stats” out-of-the-way:
Last year he shot 35 percent from 3, 38 percent overall. His averaged 2.5 assists while turning it over once a game and grabbing 2 rebounds. He shot over 80 percent from the free throw line but only got about one trip per game to the charity stripe. His point total? A whopping 7.7.
All of those stats are down from his previous year, by the way.
Now onto the argument itself.
Pros: With Fish, the numbers often don’t tell the whole story. If we do look at the numbers though you’ll find a great stat that is very underrated: games played. You would be hard pressed to find a point guard who is more durable than Ol’ Fish. He is there day in and day out which I believe has a calming effect on the rest of the team. Sure, Fish gets killed by opposing point guards but he makes those guys work for the points. He is a heady defender who can draw a ton of offensive foul calls (ask Doc Rivers).
Let’s move on to the intangibles, the most important being leadership. Fisher is the calming force on this Laker team. When he was gone Kobe had no one to check him when he got out of line with his teammates. Since Fisher’s return, those episodes have greatly been reduced. He also sets the tone against “tough, physical teams” by letting them know the Lakers aren’t intimidated by anyone. Who can forget his “hit stick” on Luis Scola during their playoff battle? How about him getting in the face of Robin Lopez during this years Western Conference finals? Simply put, he doesn’t take any guff from anybody which is essential on a team that is considered “soft” by many basketball pundits.
His assists and points are a result of him not being the primary ball handler and not being needed to score many points in the offensive scheme. This team is designed to get the point guard and small forward position open 3-point looks. During his years in Golden State he nearly averaged career highs in assists. He also scored his career high with the Warriors which was a much less structured offense than what Phil Jackson runs in Los Angeles.
The reason Fish is needed above all else is that he shows up in the playoffs. He hits clutch shots and is almost always in the right spot. He is a great asset down the stretch to hit the free throws that ice the game and playoff series. Fish is just too important to this team as a leader to not have him around until he decides to hang ‘em up. Why wouldn’t the Lakers want a proven champion and one of Kobe’s closest friends on their roster in any capacity? If this guy played in the 80′s for any other team his number would be in the rafters.
Cons: I’m not going to sit here and dispute Fish’s leadership or intangibles. My only question is how far does that go in today’s NBA? When are LA fans going to realize that his raw skills are equal to a third guy off the bench and not a starting point guard on a championship caliber team? His only role is to stand somewhere and shoot 3′s which he’s not great at becoming horrible at.
This guy gets crushed on a regular basis by almost any point guard in the league. Speedy points? They have big nights. Athletic, high flyers? If Kobe doesn’t switch over, they have huge nights also. The only elite point guard who he can limit is Deron Williams. Even when he does have a good match up they still outscore him on a nightly basis. When will this stop? He is the only weak link on one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. With the home court being such a huge advantage in today’s NBA, Fish could be the difference between a Game 7 in LA or on the road.
For a guy heralded for his leadership skills, he makes crummy decisions quite often. The most dedicated fans will tell you that Fish pulls up for bizarre jumpers more than he should. How many times should he do that? Zero. This guy is turning 36 next year and was taking jumpshots like John Wall during the summer league.
With role players like Derek, it’s hard to tell them when to retire because they are never great scorers. They stick around for a long time because they don’t have big drop offs in production like superstars do. So I say this as a Laker fan, please retire after this year Fish. I love your leadership, your heart, your gritty style and the clutch shots you make. LA loves you, don’t make the team push you out. Bow out gracefully.
Conclusion: As I’ve said, I’m torn. I’m excited for Fish being a part of this years team but as far as the 2011-12 season goes? I don’t know. I think if the Lake Show finish up the 3-peat, he should bow out with Phil and come back as an assistant coach on, what will hopefully be, Shaw’s staff.