Derek Fisher is meeting with the Miami Heat on Saturday.
The news is certainly newsworthy, but hardly a sign of a deteriorating relationship between Fish and the Lakers. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com writes:
"...Fisher's preference remains to re-sign with the Lakers, but he feels the need to explore his options and listen to [Pat] Riley's pitch after the Heat landed free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Miami also re-signed Dwyane Wade and were reportedly closing in on Mike Miller. According to a source, negotiations between Fisher and the Lakers have remained positive and the team has put an offer on the table that was stronger than what's been previously reported (one year, $2.5 million). Fisher returned from a trip to China on Wednesday, but he's had several conversations with both Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Riley..."
At his exit interview, despite expressing a strong preference for remaining in L.A., Fish also made it clear he'd pick up the phone and entertain offers. It would be irresponsible not to, he said. So for him to hop on a plane and hear out Pat Riley? Not a shock, particularly given what they've got going on down in South Beach.
Until someone reports a significant breakdown in negotiations between the two sides- multiple sources are saying that's not the case- there's little reason to worry. Moreover, if Fisher is indeed looking for a 2 year, $10 million deal from the Lakers, he's not going to get anything close to that in Miami. There's enough salary cap math involved to make your head spin like an owl, but the odds of the Heat having the flexibility to offer Fish much more than the veteran's minimum is low.
So basically, Fisher would sign with Miami because a) he thinks they're title contenders or b) the way he's been treated by L.A. has honked him to the point he feels the move is necessary. Regarding "a," the Lakers already have that covered. And it's way too early for "b."
Ultimately, the odds are still overwhelmingly in favor of Fisher returning.
What's interesting about the process, though, is how much a few indelible and undoubtedly clutch moments can wipe away a season's worth of frustration. I'm hard pressed to remember a Laker who received more consistent criticism or was more frequently seen as a glaring weakness than Fisher. (Trust me on this, I get a lot of email.) And with cause. While I've long thought Fisher's defensive shortcomings were widely overblown, he was not good on the other end last year. Frequently, he was flat-out bad. 38 percent from the floor during the regular season, 34.8 from downtown. True shooting percentage? Effective field goal percentage? PER? All fell off the cliff.
About the only thing going up was his turnover rate.
But in the playoffs, Fisher turned it around, and as is his custom, came up large in moments requiring a high degree of groinal fortitude. Game 3 of the Finals in Boston is the brightest example for most fans, but there were others through the four round postseason run. He wasn't uniformly great. After Game 3, struggled to make an impact until a little affair called Game 7, in which he again hit the sort of iconic shot for which he's known. Moreover, he showed again why he's so important to the culture of the team. He's the guy who inspires, who sets an example, who provides the balance in leadership to Kobe in part because he's willing to stand up to him.
There are other reasons Fisher matters. Little, practical stuff like the ability to trigger the offense or funnel guys correctly on defense, but it's Fisher's gravitas prompting Bryant to speak so forcefully for his return, and why Lakers fans want him back so much. He's not necessarily a great NBA player anymore, but if I might bust out a little Peanuts, when it comes to fans and the rest of the roster, in many ways they're Linus, he's the security blanket.
His presence puts people at ease and increases their confidence.
Nobody wants him playing 35 minutes a night. I haven't run into anyone disappointed the Lakers picked up Steve Blake, who should eat some of Fisher's minutes. Next year, he'll likely be a lightning rod for fan criticism again. At the same time, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone wanting the Lakers to dump him. Not after what he did this postseason.
It's why the Land O'Lakers mailbag has been filled with "What's taking so long?" questions regarding Fisher.
People get nervous without the security blanket.