This news hit like a punch in the gut. Uber fan favorite, Derek Fisher, is no longer a Laker. Mitch Kupchak, easily one of the most well-respected GMs in professional sports, separated himself from emotion to improve a Lakers team that has earned a deplorable 9-14 road record (18-2 at home).
The new collective bargaining agreement entails stiffer luxury tax rules. This played a role in the pre-season trade that sent Lamar Odom to Dallas. A continued need clear up cap space and the necessity of improving at point guard facilitated a flurry of trade deadline deals by the Los Angeles Lakers.
First, L.A. acquired a more effective point guard to lead the Lakers’ offense, bringing in Ramon Sessions in exchange for Luke Walton and a first round draft pick. Ramon Sessions averaged double-digit points and 5.2 assists per game in a backup role with Cleveland. Fisher was logging weaker numbers in a starting role. Fisher’s field goal percentage was under 40% as he averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists per game. Without Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, having a offensively potent point guard grew more essential, making Sessions a great fit. Luke Walton, was a played beautifully in the old triangle offense where his passing skills and basketball savvy were amplified, but he was not receiving any playing time and was stuck on Mike Brown’s bench. The Lakers ability to upgrade at point guard while off-loading Luke Walton’s hideous contract made this trade a big win for L.A.
Rumors held that they’d also complete a three team deal that would net Michael Beasley from Minnesota. Steve Blake was set to go back to Portland and the Timberwolves were to add Jamal Crawford. Unfortunately, the deal collapsed and they ended up moving Derek Fisher to Houston. Yahoo contributor, Steve Silverman, wasn’t impressed.
“Why did the Lakers trade Fisher to the Houston Rockets for 6-foot-10 forward Jordan Hill? Fisher is 37 and he is no longer at the top of his game. He’s a good player, but he’s not as effective as he had been. However, it’s mainly Jim Buss showing he is in control of the team and since he wants to get rid of unnecessary contracts, that’s what he is doing. This is primarily a salary dump.”
While Laker fans may be upset, hurt, and shocked, when the dust clears they’ll see how Kupchak strengthened the Lakers in both the short and long-term. Phil Jackson and the triangle offense are no more. While it is nice to reminisce of the days when Walton and Fisher were key contributors to championship teams, it’s time to move on and continue to work towards championship #18. The Lakers were able to move two ugly contracts (those of Luke Walton and Derek Fisher), upgrade at point guard, and get a little young talent to go with it. While Derek Fisher is my favorite NBA player and his autographed warm up jacket is my prized piece of sport memorabilia, I can’t fault Laker GM Mitch Kupchak for making these deadline moves. For more, check out ESPN’s perspective.
This has been a wild week for me with job interviews, a new car purchase, my favorite basketball player being traded, Andy Pettitte coming out of retirement to rejoin the Yankees, and of course March Madness. More blog posts to come.
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