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Lakers guard Derek Fisher says he's not struggling

January 7, 2010 |  4:48 pm

Lakers guard Derek Fisher has shot more than 50% only once in the last nine games, has sat out the entire fourth quarter three times in a little more than a week and is on pace to finish with his lowest scoring output per game since the 2003-04 season.

Yet, Fisher said after Thursday's practice that he was more worried about team chemistry than individual slumps, and that included himself.

"No," was the answer Fisher provided when he was asked if he thinks he has been struggling.

Judging by the comments during the Lakers-Clippers Live Chat, it's fair to say Fisher's play has been a highly debatable topic these recent weeks. Many in the chat expressed relief when Lakers Coach Phil Jackson benched Fisher for the fourth quarter, but then wondered why action hadn't been taken sooner.

That's because during the third quarter, Fisher had mostly guarded Baron Davis, and he went off for 14 of his 25 points. And on the offensive end, Fisher finished the game with four turnovers and only three points on one-for-three shooting. Shannon Brown came off the bench, finished with 15 points and guarded Davis fairly well, opening up more questions on whether Fisher's minutes should drop.

Though Brown has shown signs of greatness, the rest of the Lakers' bench hasn't provided consistent production. And even through Fisher's struggles, the statistics show he is 12th in the league in plus-minus stats and is on the Lakers' top three units measured by that same statistic. Obviously, that statistic isn't the end-all be-all when evaluating players, nor should it camouflage the struggles Fisher has experienced this season.

But it at least brings nuanced understanding that Fisher's poor D in Wednesday's loss to the Clippers was just a segment of a shaky unit that allowed 54 points in the paint and 26 points in transition. His shaky offensive performance signified a larger issue, with Kobe Bryant having a poor shooting night, Ron Artest still phasing back into the lineup and Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom struggling to fill Pau Gasol's absence.

Fisher went through similar problems in much of last season's playoffs, heading into Game 4 of the NBA Finals shooting only 27.1% from three-point range. After missing his first five three-point shots in Game 4, he made the baskets that counted and rekindled memories of his game-winning shot with 0.4 of a second left in the 2004 conference semifinals in San Antonio. Fisher's three-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation instantly became one of the greatest in Lakers' history. His second three-pointer with 31.3 seconds left clinched the Lakers' victory.

Teammates supported Fisher during his struggles last season, mainly arguing his on-court presence and leadership qualities were invaluable regardless of any poor statistical outings or rough patches. Case in point, the team credited Fisher's "This is your moment speech" in Game 3 of the last season's Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets as a turning point toward an eventual victory in that contest.

Let's continue the conversation and get your thoughts on whether you think Fisher will shake out of his recent play, or if it's too risky to wait and see.

--Mark Medina