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Lakers unanimous in support of Derek Fisher staying with the team

June 24, 2010 |  1:44 pm

Lakers guard Derek Fisher remained upstairs at the Lakers practice facility for quite some time. But he wasn't saying sentimental goodbyes in the possibility he'll be gone after July once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He just had plenty of business to discuss.

That, of course, partly involved his future with the Lakers, but it also included distributing the playoff revenue to his teammates as well general topics, such as the events surrounding President Obama and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. It surely reveals Fisher's comfort level in familiar settings.

Sure, there are plenty of details the team will have to iron out. The Times' Mike Bresahan and Broderick Turner reported that Fisher, 35, will likely have to take a pay cut from the $5 million he made last season, though Fisher wants more than the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million for a player of his experience level (14 seasons). Fisher also labeled remaining a starter a "priority," but not a "deal breaker." And he acknowledged he'll field offers from other teams so he's fully aware of his market value. Nonetheless, Fisher's stance remains clear: "I won't make a decision before I know exactly where I stand here."

"I've never mixed any statements or positions about winning," Fisher said, "and wanting to be associated with winning championships and being on the best team in the NBA."

The Lakers apparently agree. General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he "absolutely" wants to keep Fisher. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant called it "crucial" that Fisher remain on the team. And Lakers forward Pau Gasol argued that the team should rank Fisher's re-signing as "high" on their list of needs.

I've spent plenty of times this season detailing Fisher's value. Even when he entered the postseason with poor shooting numbers and inconsistent defensive performances, I predicted his clutch shooting and leadership would prove instrumental in the postseason. You saw it in the Lakers' Game 3 West semifinals victory over the Utah Jazz, where he scored 20 points on seven of 13 shooting as well as a key three-pointer that gave the Lakers a one-point lead with 28 seconds remaining. You saw it in the Lakers' Game 3 Finals victory over the Boston Celtics, where his 11 fourth-quarter points bailed out an ineffective Bryant. And you saw it in the Lakers' series-clinching Game 7 win over Boston, when he calmed the team down following the third quarter and made a three-pointer that tied the game with 6:12 left, a shot Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said "changed the complexity of the game."

I've often emphasized Fisher's presence greatly enhances locker room dynamics. He's built enough credibility to where Bryant allows him to directly confront him if necessary. The coaching staff finds him helpful in delivering the team's message. And everyone on the team unanimously values his input and work ethic. Former Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy perfectly detailed why Fisher is a perfect for a championship-caliber team. The video below shows the team's genuine and heartfelt respect for Fisher. And the overall sentiment suggests the organization understands why he needs to stay. For the Lakers' sake, they better hope Fisher's long exit interview didn't mark the end of a storied career with the team, but the mark of another beginning.

-- Mark Medina

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