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Derek Fisher still slowed by limited off-season workouts

December 19, 2011 | 10:56 am

Out of the corner of his eye, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant noticed something about Derek Fisher that even caught him off guard.

The two have bonded since entering the NBA in 1996, winning five championships and sharing the co-captain roles in recent seasons, so not much surprises Bryant about Fisher. But this did. On the far end of the court following Saturday's practice, Fisher dribbled two basketballs in side-to-side motions while wearing flashing glasses.

"What the hell is going on over there?," Bryant said, smiling with a confused expression. 

A team official explained that the glasses were designed to hinder Fisher's eyesight, requiring him to  take extra care with his ballhandling and court awareness. Chalk it up as one example of Fisher trying to play catch-up on his practice time.

"The conditioning level is starting to get there," said Lakers Coach Mike Brown, who plans to bench Fisher in Monday's preseason game against the Clippers so he can rest. "What makes it tough for him is he wasn't able to prepare or train like he normally has in the past."

That's because Fisher's off-season activities were dominated by his role as NBA Players Assn. president during the protracted labor negotiations. In recent seasons, Fisher's workouts usually entailed two 90-minute sessions for three consecutive days, emphasizing endurance, core, balance and stability in the morning, and strength in the afternoon. Once mid-August hit, Fisher usually played pickup basketball and worked on speed drills.

Fisher didn't exactly spell out how much his conditioning was affected, but when he talked about negotiation meetings ending as late as 5 a.m. it's not hard to do the math. Even having a fitness center in his hotel didn't exactly mitigate his hectic schedule.

"It was awkward," Fisher said. "There were days where I couldn't specifically get done the things I wanted to get done. But I was always able to get some stuff done."

This isn't an indictment of Fisher's priorities so much as it is marveling on how Fisher managed get any work in during that period. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Brown and his teammates fully understand the tough hand Fisher was dealt.

"I don't know how he did it," Bryant said. "I'd much rather run suicides all day than sit in that room for 12-13 hours looking at David Stern." 

Of course, that hardly reduces the concern from Laker fans, many of whom have expressed frustration over his struggles in defending quick guards and his declining overall speed. At 37, and now in an offense that emphasizes quickness, Fisher was going to be challenged even if he had gone through his usual off-season regimen. But Brown remains adamant that he doesn't expect Fisher to stop young guards so much as ensuring the team remains balanced on defense. But Fisher remains determined in offsetting his lost workout time. 

Throughout training camp, Fisher maximized on-court practice time while resting during intense drills. At the end of practice on Sunday, Fisher worked out with new Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco on the sidelines while the rest of the team played full court. Fisher often paced himself during the team's full-court practice scrimmages, but often remained on the court after practice engaging in intense shooting sessions. Fisher also remained sidelined for the team's intrasquad scrimmage Friday at USC's Galen Center, but both Fisher and Brown said he did so more to rest than address a specific injury.

"You make do with what you have and use it as preparation for the season," Fisher said. "You can't always control circumstances and dictate the way things are going to be."


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— Mark Medina

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