Derek Fisher's visit with Miami just part of the negotiating process
Lakers guard Derek Fisher landed in Miami on Saturday and listened to LeBron James' pitch about joining the Heat. Fisher then sat in a swank South Beach hotel and heard Miami Heat owner Micky Arison and team President Pat Riley make the same case.
With each day passing in which the Lakers and Fisher haven't reached an agreement over his contract, it appears Lakers fans have increasingly expressed concerns that Fisher will indeed leave the Lakers for the second time in his 14-year career. That concern heightened once fans heard the news regarding Fisher's willingness to consider joining the Heat's "Super Team" in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Some argue the Lakers will let him walk, with some believing that's a wrong move because of his leadership and others claiming it's the right move because the Lakers have already picked up free agent guard Steve Blake. Some argue Fisher will decide to leave on his own, with some believing that's a wrong move because the Lakers are more poised to win a title than Miami and others claiming he deserves better than the Lakers' reported offer of one year for $2.5 million, a decrease from the $5.048 million he made last season. Then there are some, such as myself, that see it for truly what it is: a negotiating tactic.
This is simply part of the free agency process and it doesn't deviate from what Fisher said in his exit interview: "I won't make a decision before I know exactly where I stand here." Lakers fans appear split on whether Fisher deserves more than what the Lakers are offering, and I presented in detail why the Lakers should ultimately grant Fisher the multiyear, $5-million a season he wants. Regardless of where you fall in this debate, you can't fault Fisher for exploring other options. That doesn't mean he doesn't want to play for the Lakers. That doesn't mean he's going to leave the Lakers, either. Fisher is simply assessing his other options like any responsible employee would do.
There's also practical reasons why Lakers fans shouldn't be concerned just yet. The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner report that the Miami Heat want Fisher to be their starting point guard. But it remains unclear how much they could pay him. Though ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne report the Heat are willing to hold off other offers until Fisher makes a decision, the story also states the Lakers have made a second offer to Fisher that's worth more than the one-year, $2.5-million offer that they originally proposed. Lastly, the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman reports that "there is an expectation from all sides that Fisher will wind up back with the Lakers after this well-publicized dalliance, which likely will wind up as nothing more than a bid to drive up his value."
Still, there's some fans who have expressed offense that Fisher would even consider meeting other teams. Not to be overly cynical, but the talk that Fisher should remain loyal to the Lakers is incredibly overblown. As much as the Lakers value Fisher's leadership and as much as Fisher wants to be back with the team, the organization and Fisher are both looking out for their best interests. The Lakers have financial matters they must address, as does Fisher. But in no way does that mean Fisher isn't taking a realistic approach about it. He may be seeking higher pay, but he's really just trying to maximize his market value. He wants to be on a championship contending team, and he's trying to see which team -- the Heat or the Lakers -- would want his presence more. And by visiting other teams, Fisher is showing to the Lakers that other teams indeed are interested in him, which could prompt the Lakers to increase their offer so they don't lose him.
When I mentioned that possibility in some of the recent live chats, some Lakers fans countered that the Lakers allowed Trevor Ariza to walk to Houston after they couldn't reach a deal. But that circumstance is different. One, Ariza doesn't have as much history with the Lakers as Fisher does. Two, the Lakers were in the process of acquiring Ron Artest, which proved to be an essential swap. And three, Miami has the chance to threaten the Lakers for an NBA title. Houston didn't. Even if the Lakers are looking at other options to fill their backcourt, they don't want the Heat having the luxury of plucking away one of their major assets and thus making it more difficult to three-peat.
That brings us back to the present moment. It's not exactly clear what will happen regarding negotiations between the Lakers and Fisher. But one thing's certain. Fisher's visit to Miami will probably spur the Lakers and Fisher into reaching an agreement rather than Fisher joining the Super Team.
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Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher fouls Boston forward Paul Pierce while going for a steal in the second quarter of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Lakers Derek Fisher (2), Ron Artest (37) and Kobe Bryant (background) begin to celebrate after their 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics earned them the NBA championship last month. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.