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Derek Fisher makes final case why Lakers need to keep him

June 18, 2010 |  1:33 pm


Lakers guard Derek Fisher appeared animated on the sideline. The team had spent much of the third quarter cutting a 13-point deficit down to four points, and there was no way the team could afford to allow Boston to widen the gap. No one questioned the Lakers' effort, but with tightness and shooting continuing to be a struggle, Fisher wanted his teammates to somehow make it work.

"He said, "Guys we've got 12 minutes, 12 minutes to dig down, get back into this game," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant recalled Fisher saying. "Everything that we've worked hard for, we've got 12 minutes to put it back together, and we followed suit."

That included Fisher. For a player that's made plenty of big shots in his storied 14-year career, he hit a three-pointer that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said "changed the complexity of the game." Lakers forward Pau Gasol kicked the ball out of the post to Fisher, who nailed a 26-foot trey to the tie the game at 64-64 with 6:12 remaining in the game. From that point on, the Lakers maintained the lead.

"That shot continued to feed the crowd and the energy," said Fisher, who scored 10 points on four of six shooting. "It got us the momentum we needed to finish this game down the stretch."

It also added another chapter to the value Fisher brings to the team. That conversation comes at an opportune time considering Fisher, at age 35, will become a free agent July 1. And if Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has anything to do with it, Fisher will be there next year.

"That's D Fish," Bryant said about his key three-pointer. "There's not enough words of praise I can use to describe him and how I feel about him."

But Bryant actually spoke much more about Fisher after the team's 91-84 Game 3 victory over Boston, largely propelled by Fisher's 11 fourth-quarter points. "He's really the only one I listen to," Bryant said after the game. "Everybody else is a bunch of kids."

The Lakers surely listened to Fisher on the sideline before the fourth quarter, resulting in the team holding Boston to two field goals in the first 6:22 of the quarter. That the team takes Fisher's advice isn't anything new. He calmed them down in Game 3 of the Finals. He addressed the team about the necessity to play for each other before the postseason began. And he often led team discussions during adverse moments in the regular season.

Even if Fisher isn't a kid, as Bryant called it, he displayed his wide-eyed personality afterward in the locker room as if this were the first time he won a championship. Fisher, who will collect his fifth ring, playfully yelled "raindrops!" as beer was poured on his championship hat. He smiled when a reporter informed him he's now able to shave his playoff beard. And he shared his belief that Los Angeles should host a parade for the Lakers every week.

Clearly, winning a championship and hitting big shots aren't getting old for Fisher. Though he made a game-winner with 0.4 of a second left in the 2004 West semifinals against San Antonio and two key three-pointers in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals, Fisher ranked his latest shot above the rest because it happened the same night the Lakers won the title. But his shot and the rest of the Lakers' key shots are a result of Fisher inspiring the team at the end of the third quarter.

"We just felt as a team we needed to figure this thing out," Fisher said. "That's what's so great about winning this game."

From the Lakers' standpoint, they realized once again Fisher's been largely instrumental in the team accomplishing that goal. And Fisher doesn't want to stop anytime soon.

Said Fisher: "If it's up to me, there's no way I wouldn't want to keep doing this and enjoying this."

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Derek Fisher and his wife, Candace, celebrate on the court of Staples Center after the Lakers' 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times