Derek Fisher returned to the Staples Center last night as his new team, the OKC Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-93. It was a moment fans had been waiting for and they made their feelings known.
D-Fish got two ovations from the crowd, the first of which occurred just prior to tip-off when the Lakers played a video tribute to their former co-captain. Video posted to the left.
One local media member who has been around the team for more than a decade said it was the longest and loudest response to any player who returned after leaving the team. The tribute was moving in the way it packaged highlights of Derek Fisher’s contributions to five NBA championships — so much so that Kobe Bryant said he couldn’t watch it.
Although Bryant had said that the best way to welcome back his best friend on the team was to “demolish him,” there was no such thing happening on the court. Read: Kobe Bryant expects bruises from playing D-Fish when he returns.
Fisher had been careful prior to last night to avoid addressing his sudden trade and any feelings he had experienced in its aftermath. He saved it for the local beat writers who got something rare from an athlete they cover — a thank you.
He appreciated how he was treated by them in his 13 seasons and he saved the good stuff for them. When asked how he has digested it all and managed the emotions that resulted from leaving the Lakers, Derek Fisher said:
“I’m in a good place right now. Initially it was more shock than just pure disappointment. I’ve been in this business for a long time and not just for me personally, but for thousands of guys that have played this game, I’ve always thought that there were different ways to handle trade and waiver situations where there can be some more communication – not necessarily far in advance, but far enough not to have to find out from the mailman or at the post office that you’ve been traded. And I’m not saying that that’s what happened in this case, but I did wake up and I was traded.”
What about the public remarks of GM Mitch Kupchak that he thought it would be best for the team and Fish for him not to be relegated to a third string guard, losing face and perhaps becoming disgruntled in the process? Read: Lakers show Derek Fisher just what he’s worth.
“That goes against and flies in the face of not just what I’ve been since I’ve been in the NBA, but the type of team player I’ve been in every group I’ve ever been a part of.”
Without any rancor Derek Fisher captured the feelings of his former teammate Lamar Odom, and all the longtime Lakers scouts and front office personnel who bit the dust prior to the NBA lockout this summer.
A common theme is lack of personal communication to ease the sting after a long and supposedly close relationship. Trades happen, but a measure of comfort comes from learning about it privately and from the team who made the decision.
Derek Fisher landed in a bed of roses, with a team that many expect to see in the NBA Finals with a good chance of taking it all. He will take a measure of satisfaction in that. ” I’m looking forward to adding what I can add to a situation that was special before I even arrived.”