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L.A. Lakers: Does the 2011 NBA Draft Signal the End of the Derek Fisher Era?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 25, 2011

DALLAS, TX - MAY 06:  Guard Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the court after a 98-92 loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If anyone had any doubts as to whether or not Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher would be returning to the team for the 2011-12 regular season, then the 2011 NBA draft may have provided enough evidence to support the opinion that Fisher's days as a Laker are done.

The Lakers chose two point guards with their first two picks in the draft, and although this is not conclusive proof that Fisher will not wear the purple and gold next season, it does seem to signal the intent of the franchise to move in another direction.

And that direction is likely as far away from Fisher as possible, despite all that he has meant to the franchise over the last decade.

Fisher's miracle .04 second shot against the San Antonio Spurs in the postseason captured the hearts of Lakers fans everywhere, and he only capitalized on the adoration with clutch NBA Fionals performances in 2009 and 2010.

No one will ever deny how important Fisher has been to the Lakers success and his five championship rings illustrate that fact, but it's equally difficult to dismiss how much of a defensive liability he has become.

Fisher simply doesn't have the quickness to stay in front of opposing point guards, and if his outside shot is not falling, he brings no value when he is on the court.

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This has actually been true for the last three regular seasons but Fisher has managed to summon up key performances in the postseason such as his three-point daggers that helped push the Lakers past Orlando in the 2009 NBA Finals, and his play on the road against the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

But Fisher could not find any of that same magic in 2011, and after Jason Terry's 9-for-10 performance from the three-point line in the Dallas Mavericks' dominant Game 4 victory in the West Semifinals, Fisher's career as a Laker would appear to be done.

The Lakers' first two picks in this year's NBA Draft were Darius Morris from Michigan and Andrew Goudelock of College of Charleston, who both just happen to be point guards.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak understands the team's need to improve at the point of attack, and there is a good chance that he may still bring in another veteran guard which could leave Fisher as the odd man out.

The Lakers could still find value in Fisher by retaining him to serve as a mentor to both Goudelock and Morris, but the team could sign a younger veteran point guard who could serve the same purpose.

At any rate there is still a decision that needs to be made on Steve Blake, who served as Fisher's backup last season, and under any scenario it's hard to picture the Lakers carrying four point guards on their regular season roster whenever the season officially starts.

There have been rumors that the Lakers might pursue either New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul or New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams, who will both be free agents in the summer of 2012.

If that's the case the Lakers could use one of their new draft picks as trade bait in an attempt to lure one of those players to Los Angeles, but even then Fisher's role on the team would be reduced to more of a coach than a player.

And maybe coaching is where Fisher could help the Lakers most since his experience and leadership would be a welcome addition to new head coach Mike Brown's staff.

Lakers fans will never forget what Fisher has meant to the team, and although last season may indeed be the end of his tenure as a player, maybe the Buss family will let his legend live on as a member of the team's front office once he retires.

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