Derek Fisher expects to play no more than 30 minutes per game this season
Even if Lakers guard Derek Fisher says he and Coach Phil Jackson never formally talked about his role, he has plenty of reasons to believe he won't play more than 30 minutes per game in the regular season.
The Lakers signed Steve Blake this off-season to a four-year, $16-million contract to assume backup duties. There's plenty of other backcourt options in Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic. And there's the fact that Fisher hasn't played more than 30 minutes since the 2005-2006 season with the Golden State Warriors.
"However many minutes there are, I plan to maximize them," said Fisher, who averaged 28.13 minutes with the Lakers in the last three seasons. "Be aggressive, take advantage of opportunities and do things the way I'm capable of doing them."
The way Jackson monitors Fisher's minutes will determine many factors. It will affect how much of an opportunity Blake, Brown and Vujacic have to complement the backcourt. It will affect how defenses play the Lakers, aware that Fisher's late-game clutchness, Blake's play-making, Brown's athleticism and Vujacic's feistiness will make it hard for teams to figure which poison they'll pick. And it will affect how fresh Fisher remains for the playoffs, where his experience, leadership and clutch shooting have come in handy during the Lakers' last two championship runs.
Although this will in no way largely determine how Fisher's minutes turn out, the way the Lakers play in London on Oct. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and in Spain on Oct. 7 against Regal FC Barcelona can help lay the foundation moving forward. (For those who can't view the moving pictures below, here is a transcript of Fisher's interview).
Fisher, 36, comes through in the playoffs partly because of how Jackson is careful to make sure that his body isn't worn out, especially considering that he's played in all 82 regular-season games the last five seasons. Remaining a starter is important to Fisher, but he also made it clear after Thursday's practice that he's not consciously set on playing 82 games. He simply wants to remain injury free.
"I don't plan on missing any nights," said Fisher, whom Jackson sat out of Thursday's practice. "If I play 30 minutes or 15 minutes, if I'm out there I'm doing something that can help us win. That's the most important thing to me."
The reserves behind Fisher will be key. Fisher earned plenty of criticism -- some justified, some not -- last season for defensive breakdowns and questionable shot selection during the regular season. But Brown and Jordan Farmar didn't always provide a better alternative.
It may prove difficult to solidly lay that foundation in Europe, considering Andrew Bynum will be out and Kobe Bryantwill be limited. On the other hand, the scenario would create more opportunities for the bench reserves to play alongside Fisher or directly behind him. Either way, in what Fisher may lack in uber athleticism, he makes up for in basketball IQ. So his presence on the floor can help spur them along in mastering the concepts.
And it very well may prove that the passing-off-the-baton process proves rather seamless. After all, Fisher's noticed a more serious vibe thus far in training camp with what he calls a "workmanlike attitude." He described his body as feeling "great." And he argued that the Lakers "have a great opportunity to be an even better basketball team than we were a year ago."
"I see that helping all of us, but in particular myself," said Fisher, who signed a three-year contract this offseason believed to be worth about $10.5 million, including a player option in the third year. "I see a lot of things out there that I can take advantage of with the personnel that we have."
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