Derek Fisher staying with Lakers after free agent talks
Derek Fisher thought about joining that burgeoning superteam in Miami, but in the end Derek Fisher will remain with the Lakers.
"I have decided to continue with Kobe, continue with our teammates and the fans of Los Angeles," Fisher said in a statement on his website. "While this may not be the most lucrative contract I've been offered this offseason, it is the most valuable. I am confident I will continue to lead this team on and off the court. Let the hunt for six begin."
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The five-time NBA champion said he considered contract offers from several teams in the past two weeks after playing a key role in the Lakers' championship repeat. He spoke with the Heat in South Beach last weekend, entertaining the prospect of running an offense for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who all left free-agent money on the table to sign teammates of Fisher's ability.
The idea was enticing, but not enough to uproot his family and career from Los Angeles, where he has spent 11 of his 14 NBA seasons.
"At the end of the day, there's one person I could not turn away from," Fisher said. "Kobe Bryant asked me to stay but supported whatever decision I made. He and I have played together for 11 seasons, came into the league together as kids, and has been loyal to me even when others had doubts."
While Miami has commanded the basketball world's attention in the past week, Fisher's decision is the second positive development already in July for the Lakers' threepeat hopes: Coach Phil Jackson also decided to return for another season 11 days earlier.
Fisher likely isn't bluffing about larger offers from other teams. The Lakers' payroll already is stretched to the limit of the salary cap with the rest of Los Angeles' veteran core signed to multiyear contracts, including Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom.
But Fisher decided he valued winning and consistency over a late-career cash grab — and the other time he left the Lakers for a big-money deal, he endured two miserable seasons in Golden State and one better year in Utah before returning to the Lakers in 2007.
Fisher first joined the Lakers in 1996, when Jerry West drafted the unsung guard from Arkansas-Little Rock and the franchise nurtured him into a consistent playmaker and occasional scorer. Since his return to Hollywood, he has started every regular-season game for the Lakers over the past three seasons.
Fisher averaged 7.5 points and 2.5 assists last year. Although he sometimes struggles against quicker point guards, Fisher still has the veteran guile and poise necessary to perform at important moments — and that's the quality Bryant values most in his longtime teammate.
"We've got to have him back," Bryant said last month shortly after the Lakers' victory parade. "Fish knows we need him, and we know we've got to keep him."
Fisher raised his game in the postseason, starting all 23 games and averaging 10.3 points and 2.8 assists to help the Lakers win their second straight title. He was particularly effective in the Western Conference semifinals against Utah's Deron Williams, and he largely matched the efforts of veteran Steve Nash in the conference finals against the Phoenix Suns.
Fisher's return means the most significant parts of the Lakers' championship roster will return this fall. General manager Mitch Kupchak now must hunt for bargains and unsung players to fill in the gaps on his bench, which wasn't particularly deep last season.
Los Angeles let free agent Jordan Farmar leave for New Jersey on Monday after signing Steve Blake last week. Blake, likely to be Fisher's backup, is overjoyed to join a talented veteran team, while Farmar is convinced he should be an NBA starter after four inconsistent seasons with the Lakers.
High-flying backup guard Shannon Brown opted out of his contract to become a free agent, but says he hopes to stay with the Lakers.