Derek Fisher deserves more than what Lakers are offering
Before the Lakers began their playoff run, Lakers guard Derek Fisher gathered the team together.
They had gone through ups and downs with injuries, inconsistency and chemistry issues with no visible signs that it could all come together. The problems seemed so troubling that it appeared uncertain whether the Lakers could defend their championship. So as the Lakers geared up for their first-round matchup against Oklahoma City, Fisher stressed the importance that everyone temporarily forget about their individual play and off-season uncertainty and lock in toward a common goal in winning a championship.
I wrote at the time how Fisher's speech served as a perfect example why the Lakers need his leadership and how it was a sign of things to come in the postseason. Even though speeches may sound like cliched scripts out of a movie, this truly illustrated how Fisher is universally respected in the locker room and how he helps reemphasize the coaching staff's message. The speech also showcased a pretty logical perspective that focusing on the sole purpose of winning a title bodes more importance for everyone, even free agents, because a title usually helps take care of the aftermath that is the off-season.
That's why it's ironic, and incredibly unfortunate, that the man who delivered the speech stressing that a championship run will help alleviate off-season concerns is currently left wondering his literal value to the team. Fisher and the organization unanimously agree that it's best for him to re-sign with the Lakers, citing his leadership, his five rings and his playoff performances that propelled the Lakers to a second consecutive title. But those are only words. The Lakers need to take action. Unfortunately for Fisher, The Times' Broderick Turner reports the Lakers don't want to pay Fisher anything more than $2.5 million for one season, while Fisher, a 14-year veteran, wants to make a similar figure as last season ($5.048 million) with a multiyear deal. Sources close to Fisher told Turner that Fisher strongly believes this should happen and that he's willing to go on a prolonged negotiation with the Lakers or go to another team if a deal can't be reached.
Before you cringe and say this is another example of a well-compensated athlete showing his entitlement, consider a few things first. This isn't about a dollar figure. This is about Fisher appropriately assessing one's market value. This isn't about trying to keep the same lifestyle. This is about Fisher wondering if the Lakers truly value what he brings to the team. This isn't about ignoring the realities that the Lakers are over the luxury tax. This is about properly determining one's assets in a tough economy.
"Sometimes it's hard to quantify that and put a price on it. In our business, you have to find a way to put a price on things with some things you can't quantify," Fisher said last week during his exit interview.
In other words, Fisher, is diplomatically saying what I'll say straight forward. If the Lakers truly want to win a third consecutive championship, they need to re-sign Fisher at a price he's asking. The Lakers have to find ways to shed costs, but they must do so with things they can do without.
Lakers reserves Adam Morrison, D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell all had great attitudes and gave a good effort in practice. But the Lakers can easily afford to lose them and find similar hardworking reserves at a lower rate. Lakers guard Shannon Brown, who recently opted out of his contract in hopes of a long-term extension, brings great upside and potential. But they can always look for a young player with those same qualities. Sasha Vujacic ($5.5 million, one year) and Luke Walton ($16 million, three years) are still making more money than Fisher, but re-signing him at a lower price only highlights the disparity even more.
"I think with Derek, we'll sit down," General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "I don't think he wants to go anywhere, and I don't think we want him to go anywhere. So there' s a hope that you sit down and work something out and I believe that will happen."
In an interesting twist, the Lakers agreed to terms with former Clippers guard Steve Blake to a four year, $16 million deal not too long after Kupchak made those comments. I welcome the move given Blake's skillset, and it appears the Lakers are properly addressing their backcourt needs. But this move should serve to complement Fisher's presence and building for the future instead of just replacing him. That's because Blake, or any other free agent for that matter, can't duplicate what Fisher brings. Fisher is the one who routinely made sure the team stayed together throughout the playoffs. Fisher is the one who made clutch shots in Game 3 of the Lakers' Western Conference semifinals series against Utah as well as in Game 3 and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And Fisher is the one who has the rings to prove his worth and the clout to criticize Kobe Bryant, two qualities that aren't developed over night.
"I don't care what anybody says about Derek," Lakers forward Ron Artest said during his exit interview. "He's a leader. He's an All-Star. I say that because it depends who you want. Do you want someone who's making $20 million a year, averaging 30 points but don't show up in the fourth quarter? Or do you want someone who's going to show up when it counts? Who's going to play big when it counts? Who becomes the second-best player in the league when it counts?"
Fisher foot that bill. Now it's time for the Lakers to foot theirs.
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Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher and the team haven't come to an agreement on a deal. Credit: Alex Gallardo/Los Angeles Times.
Photo: The Times' Broderick Turner reports the Lakers don't want to pay Fisher anything more than $2.5 million for one season, while Fisher, a 14-year veteran, wants to make a similar figure as last season ($5.048 million) with a multiyear deal. Credit: Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times