It seemed unlikely that a sinus ailment would keep Lakers guard Derek Fisher off the floor for Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns.
Yet, many vocal Lakers fans argued that Fisher's presence would hardly make a difference anyway. Fisher in recent seasons has been criticized for being an old, slow point guard who can't guard a pick-and-roll, and doing that to Steve Nash seems burdensome.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, their failure to upgrade at point guard has put Fisher in a tough position. He's being routinely set up to fail, which makes his toughness and leadership skills seem mute. Yet amid all this, Fisher's absence from Thursday's practice provided another reminder of his longevity.
Fisher has appeared in 524 consecutive regular-season games since April 15, 2005. He has started in 402 consecutive games since Jan. 15, 2007. Both are highest among active NBA players. And there's one player who can truly appreciate what that means.
"He's the ironman," former Laker A.C. Green said.
Actually, that title still belongs to Green. He holds the all-time NBA record for consecutive games played with 1,192, dating from Nov. 19, 1986, to April 18, 2001, while playing for the Lakers, Suns, Mavericks and Heat. The two players will remain a rich part of the Lakers' history for most of the same reasons. Green carved out a niche by leading the Showtime Lakers in rebounding six of his eight seasons, playing on two NBA championship teams in that span. He also provided leadership as a reserve for the Lakers' 1999-2000 championship team. Fisher was a valuable role player and clutch shooter during the Kobe-Shaq era en route to three consecutive titles. He remains a critical piece to this day for both his experience and relationship with Bryant.
"He's the ultimate professional," Green said of Fisher. "He goes out there and does what he needs to do every single night. More importantly, he does it in practice and his pre-game rituals. He just knows how to prepare himself. That's really a lesson in life where you have to find a game plan. You can't have your plan like someone else. You have to have your own plan."
Green's plan involved living by the motto, "If I can breathe, I can play." So much so that he even played in a game a day after having an emergency root canal. Fisher's plan involved in recent seasons staying away from competitive basketball during the offseason and devoting time to off-court workouts. While his legs stayed fresh, Fisher's week often entailed two 90-minute sessions for three consecutive days, emphasizing endurance, core, balance and stability in the morning, and strength in the afternoon. That gave him enough strength to absorb a sprained left elbow last season in regular-season game against Charlotte.
It hardly sounds glamorous. But it's something fans surely should appreciate.
"You have to have some help," Green said. "You have to have good trainers, you have to eat right and keep your mind on the right things and find a balance on how to rest. It's a combination of things. You have to have help from the man above. It's nothing easy or magical about it because that's a long time. At the same time, it's fun."
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