Wednesday, May 30

Fisher rebounds strong from broken foot
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers are 24-5 since Derek Fisher returned to the team after missing the first 62 games with a stress fracture in his right foot.

Derek Fisher
Since Derek Fisher's return from injury, all the Lakers have done is won games.
They carry a 17-game winning streak into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against San Antonio on Friday night. The possibility they could be the first NBA team to sweep through the playoffs doesn't seem far-fetched.

Kobe Bryant is spectacular. Shaquille O'Neal is a monster in the middle. Fisher is the defensive energizer. Against the Spurs, he's also been the long-range sniper -- 7-for-8 on 3-pointers in two games.

"Derek plays all out every minute that he's on the floor," Bryant said. "He gets up in guys, he gets in the passing lanes, he's very physical. Having me and him in the backcourt allows us to apply more pressure than we did earlier in the season."

Fisher said he almost decided to write off the entire season.

"I was close," he said. "Toward the end of the process, I was getting really frustrated with not being able to get back as soon as I wanted to. I was one day away from deciding just to sit out the rest of the season."

But when he found out he would get to play at least 20 games, he decided that was long enough to warrant a comeback. With the Lakers 9-0 in the playoffs, Fisher has averaged 13.9 points and has gone 17-for-37 from 3-point range.

Most of that damage has been done in the conference finals. He was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in Monday night's 88-81 victory in San Antonio after going 3-for-4 in Game 1.

"He gives us another threat, another outside scoring threat that we desperately needed," Bryant said.

Fisher said he just tries to play hard.

"Possessions are really important in playoff basketball," Fisher said, "and anytime a ball is loose or available to be picked up, I'm trying to be there. If I have to lay my body out on the floor to get it, that's what I'm going to do."

After Wednesday's workout at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, much of the talk was about another Derek -- Derek Anderson, who is expected to return for the Spurs after being sidelined for nearly three weeks with a separated shoulder.

Anderson was hurt on a flagrant foul by Juwan Howard in Game 1 of the second-round series against Dallas.

Fisher suspects that Lakers coach Phil Jackson will switch Bryant onto Anderson, and have Fisher guard the Spurs' point guard. Bryant has guarded point guards Terry Porter and Avery Johnson most of the first two games, while Fisher has gone against Antonio Daniels.

Fisher said Anderson's return should be an emotional boost to the Spurs.

"They might feel a little better about themselves in terms of having their lineup back intact," Fisher said. "We're a perfect example of when you get key players back in your lineup, it can really help your team."

Bryant said Anderson does pose new problems.

"You have to be very careful with the ball around him because he has great hands," Bryant said. "He has quick feet. He does a good job of keeping me in front of him. But for the most part I'm not too concerned with that matchup. All we do is do what we do, play the triangle offense and try to win the game."

It's a philosophy that has worked to perfection. The Lakers' playoff start is second only to the 11-0 one Los Angeles had in 1989. That year, the Lakers were swept by Detroit in the finals after Magic Johnson and Byron Scott went down with injuries.

The Lakers are shrugging off any talk of going undefeated throughout the playoffs.

"It is out there but it's not a distraction," forward Rick Fox said. "It is a goal to tack on to the goal of being the last one standing."

Added forward Horace Grant, "We let other people talk about it. That's one thing we've told each other is we're not going to focus on that. We're going to focus on that old cliche `one game at a time."'

The Spurs worked out a final time Wednesday in San Antonio. They will practice at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

"We know what kind of team we are," center David Robinson said. "It's a chance to dig down and show it to everybody."

O'Neal, in a serious mood throughout the conference finals, was more somber than ever Wednesday. His cousin Lawrence Webb, a Newark, N.J., firefighter, died of an apparent heart attack while fighting a fire on Tuesday.

"My cousin was a heroic fireman that died on the job last night," O'Neal said. "Ever since we were little boys, he always wanted to be a fireman. ... He saved a couple of people, went back in and just had a heart attack."

O'Neal said he didn't know if he would be able to attend the memorial service.

"I'm just going to continue to play the way I've been playing," he said. "Hopefully I can hit some shots, and hopefully we can get a win."

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

Spurs' Anderson set to return tonight against Lakers