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Derek Fisher news conference

July 20, 2007 |  4:04 pm

Fisher began the news conference with an emotional opening statement, thanking the NBA, the Utah Jazz and the Lakers.  He also offered some insight into what his family has experienced throughout this trying journey.  From there, he took some questions from the media, listed below.

-- AK

On his daughter Tatum:
"Tatum's status right now is moving in the right direction and in a great direction.  We've had three rounds of treatment, and she's progressively gotten better each time when we've been back to New York.  We're due back in New York soon to get a follow-up evaluation to the last last treatment, really give us an accurate idea of how she's doing.  But she's doing great, moving in the right direction now and we feel comfortable that right now, three rounds of treatment, where we can settle into and we'll be able to transition into observation and evaluation here in Los Angeles.  Our doctor will remain our treating physician if there are any treatments that become necessary again in the future, but we've found a collective group of doctors that we need here in the Los Angeles area, so that we'll be able to transition into very soon." 

On whether he was surprised that the NBA and the Utah Jazz agreed to let him out of his contract in such an unprecedented manner:
"I'm not surprised, because I think what most people will find that if you get an opportunity to spend some time with a lot of the guys in our league, a lot of other professional athletes in a lot of sports, you'll find that there are really kindhearted, thoughtful, considerate young men that are out there competing and playing in a lot of these sports.  Because of negative stories that often hit the front page or the top stories, a lot of that kind of gets lost in the shuffle.  But I'm not surprised.  Definitely not by the Jazz, their response to doing something that would allow someone to think of their family first, because that's what they've always prided themselves in as an organization. 

"I think the NBA often times as a league takes a lot of image hits because of individual decisions that are made by players or management or anyone involved with our league at times.  But I think what you'll find more times than not, if you really get a chance to be around in more personal settings with athletes and people that compete in the NBA, is that they're really hundreds of great young men that are great fathers.  They're great husbands.  They do the best that they can on a day-in and day-out basis, so it doesn't surprise me.  It may surprise some people, but it doesn't surprise me that when things really come down right to it and there's something that an individual really needs from a team or from our league, when it's a situation like this, more times than not you'll find that people will step up and do the right thing."

On whether Kobe called him about this decision like he did to comfort Fisher about his daughter's situation:
"No, he actually has not called me related to my decision as a player.  The conversations that Kobe and I have had in the last several weeks have been exclusively about our families.  And I wasn't surprised when he called me about my family and my situation, but it felt great to hear from him because of our relationship.  Because of what I'm going through with our daughter, he having two little girls himself, I think that just took our relationship to an even deeper level.  There was just another link there, having daughters and knowing that as a dad, there's almost nothing more special to you, other than your wife, that means the most to you as the health and the well-being of your little girl.  That's what we've exclusively talked about as we've talked in recent months and recent weeks.  Obviously, I'm aware of what he's going through and the decisions that he's making or not making.  But I've always kept my comments related to that at zero, because it's not my place to judge or say what's right or wrong in terms of his decisions."

On how much the "home" aspect, the familiarity with the Lakers and L.A., played into this decision:
"The aspect of us having a history here in Los Angeles really factored in after we identified Children's Hospital in Los Angeles as a place where we could get the best care.  Once that happened, then of course, between the Lakers and Clippers, because of the history, because of the relationship that Mitch and I and 10, 20, 30 people that still work here and are a part of this family, the comfort level was there.  But in terms of making our initial decision to identify this city, Los Angeles came from our doctor.  We got the list from him.  And then from there, we were able to work through the different things that we wanted to identify.  It's really a three-pronged approach to finding the best place.  And for us, four because we have a treating physician in New York.  We also needed a pediatrician who has some experience with this.  A pediatric ophthalmologist, who'll watch the eyes for us.  And then a pediatric oncologist, who specializes in cancer for kids.  So once we identified that group that we could find here, having history here in Los Angeles, period, we zeroed in here.  From there, it became a matter of having discussions with the individual teams." 

On whether lining up in the backcourt with Kobe is an exciting prospect:
"Yeah, it's extremely exciting.  Just today, I'm finally getting a chance to think about the basketball aspects of coming back.  I've been a little guarded because of how many things have gone into getting here, not knowing if this moment would ever come.  It's exciting to think about working with Kobe again and working alongside him again.  And all of the guys on the team.  I think this team in the last couple years, even though it doesn't maybe feel that way obviously for Mitch and the guys that have been here, because of spoiling ourselves in the past with championships, there doesn't seem like there's been a great deal to be proud about.  But any team that's made the playoffs in the Western Conference in the last couple years has done a lot, because the Western Conference is about as tough as it gets.  The youth that Kobe and the guys have played with and battled with and all the injuries, key guys in and out of the lineup the last two years, to still make the playoffs and still be competitive in the Western Conference is phenomenal, really.  So I'm looking forward to adding what I can add to the things that are already here.  Not feeling as if I'm an answer or a solution to anything, but hopefully just adding value, adding depth, adding experience and allowing us to win a few more games so that we aren't a 7 or 8 seed.  We're a 2, 3, 4 seed with home-court advantage in the first round, allowing ourselves to build some momentum as we go into the postseason."

On whether he thinks his rejoining the team will have a positive effect on Kobe wanting to return:
"I can't answer that question accurately, but I'd like to think so and I hope so.  Like I said, I've made a concerted effort not to question or even mention anything about what he said, comments that he's made.  It's just not the relationship that we've had since I left here.  We've gotten closer from the time that I left until now.  When we played together, we were close, but it's gotten even closer since I've been gone, because it was almost like we were forced to talk more because we didn't see each other that day.  So I'd hope that me returning and adding some familiarity to the situation in terms of the triangle offense and just a feeling of camaraderie and family that we established here years ago, that it would help in his decision.  I can't if it will.  I hope so.  Like I said, I don't come in here feeling as if I'm the answer to anything, but I hope that I get a chance to play with him forever.  I hope to finish my career playing alongside of him, because Lord knows how young he is, he'll be playing longer than I will.  But I hope to be able to finish up playing alongside him."

On how much thought, if any, he gave to stepping away from the game this season or retiring:
"Well, the thoughts about stepping away from basketball were there because of the decision I was making.  Like I said, I did not know what was out there or what would be out there once the decision was made.  I knew that there was a very short list of cities that I could even play in, in terms of taking care of and providing for my family, and then being able to play basketball.  So when I made the decision, I didn't know out of those five cities and those teams in those cities what opportunities would be there.  And really just by faith, I made the decision and I felt comfortable with it.  I knew that, worst-case, basketball is not something that's really defined who I am as a man and as a person.  I felt confident that if basketball was not meant to be a major part of my life right now for a number of reasons, obviously Tatum being first, that I could move on with life and be happy and just as fulfilled doing other things.  So the thought was there.  The concern was there, but it was not one of fear, that if I did step away from the basketball that I would regret the decision or I would feel bad about it.  I actually felt as though we'd be OK right away."

On talking to the Clippers, and what was the main factor in choosing the Lakers.  Was it being closer to the championship?  The deal itself?

(Editor's note:  Before Fisher answered, Mitch Kupchak smiled, then joked, "You were talking to the Clippers?")

"Yeah, I was talking to the Clippers.  What are you thinking?  What's wrong with this guy.   No, once medically we were in good shape and we knew that Tatum could get good care, the thoughts about now I can think about playing basketball again and which team is best, those thoughts immediately started to happen.  And from there, knowing that I wanted to play basketball, that I love to play the game, of course you have a responsibility to try to find the best deal that you can at that point.  But it wasn't driven by any one particular thing.  It wasn't driven by financials.  It wasn't driven by the status of the team or if one team was closer to this goal or that goal.  It was really what I felt was best for my family, in terms of the fit.  And then ... having played with this organization for so long and having shared so many great memories and moments and times with so many of the individuals that are still here, including this knucklehead right here (motions to Kupchak), the conversations started to progress at a higher speed than other teams."

On whether he could ever picture himself in a Clipper uniform, as opposed to a Laker uniform:
"Well, being here for eight years and winning three championships, I never thought I'd wear another jersey.  And so with the changes over the last seasons and wearing two different jerseys is something that in this business you finally have to open your eyes to.  You think that you'll be somewhere forever and that life's gonna just go to plan, and that's just not the case.  I think that I could see myself wearing any jersey at that point.  But now, I don't really have to quite worry about that so much at this point.  I can put this one back on and feel good about it."

On where Fisher and his wife found the resolve to deal with Tatum's illness:
"The resolve to bring us through to this moment and in moments going forward, in my opinion, and I feel comfortable speaking for my wife as well, really just came from our faith in God.  I don't think that  either one of us claim to have the individual strength and that we can run back to you how we got to this point.  It's really just something that we've just woken up every day, each day, one at a time and trying to do our best for that day.  And it's been really stressful.  It's been really emotional.  It's put a strain on our family at times.  But like I said earlier, the strength of my wife has given me more strength, and I think that Tatum's strength and seeing what she's been through and that she wakes every day just ready to have fun and be a 1-year old.  That's inspiring to us as husband and wife and as parents.  So I think that the resolve and the strength has started from our faith and through the people around us.  Through the support and the prayers of my former Utah teammates and that extended family and now my Laker family.  And all the prayers that we were being sent, even before the possibility of me coming back.   The support has just been overwhelming, and I think that we've gained strength from so many different sources outside of ourselves, and that's what has allowed us to really hold on strong."