Friday, June 12, 2009

D. Fish Does It Again (But He's Always Been Doing It)

When the history books remember the 2009 NBA Finals, they’ll remember Game 4 as a great comeback/choke. They’ll replay Dwight Howard’s missed free throws in the fourth to ice it – overshadowing a dominant performance. They’ll look at Trevor Ariza’s huge third quarter to bring the Lakers back. But this game will be all about Derek Fisher.

Not just because of his shots. But because it’s another reminder of what he’s meant to the Lakers and the teams he’s played on throughout his career.

He was a critical part of those first three titles despite coming off the bench to Ron Harper. He first showed his worth in the 2001 playoffs. He lit up the San Antonio Spurs from behind the arc that was one of the hottest stretches I’ve ever seen someone get on (12-16 during the series). Then after getting lit up by Allen Iverson in Game 1 of the Finals (48-zip), he came back in Game 2 with a vicious dunk over the MVP.

(I remember that dunk had me flying backwards in my house like whoa! Reminded me of when Fish did a double-clutch lay-up under Iverson during the 1997 Rookie Game)

We all know what happened in 2004. Fisher proved himself as the heart of this team, he had to sit behind Gary Payton. But he remained a professional, he stayed ready and knew that Phil Jax wasn’t going to be disappointed when he came in. That’s why in San Antonio for Game 5, he was on the floor with 0.4 seconds left.

And in 2007, we saw how important family was. He left the Utah Jazz to be with his family and young daughter who went through eye surgery to remove a tumor. Playoffs weren’t important – being a father was. Yet, he came back in the second half fresh off the plane and hit a clutch three pointer to win Game 2 against Golden State.

Now Game 4 is another testament to who he is. 0-5 on 3’s, time running down – he hit the two biggest shots of the series in the 4th and OT. Not to mention his inspiring speeches to not only lift his team but keep them focused during this postseason. His smile after that last 3 was a mix of confidence and relief.

This is who Derek Fisher is. Class, professionalism, toughness, clutch, faithful and all about family. All of those things the Lakers knew when they brought him back in 2007. Kobe Bryant is the star but Fisher has his ear and his trust. Fisher knows how to keep things in perspective and knows when to deliver – it’s why Laker fans embraced him from Day One and it’s why he’ll always be a fan favorite.

One more win to a parade on Figueroa and while we praise Ariza and Pau Gasol for their clutch play and marvel at Dwight Howard’s brilliance/chokability, this game is about the Lakers’ team finding ways to win. Not a 1-man show, but a team mission for redemption.

And when you reflect of the class of 1996 rookies (Iverson, Nash, Ray Allen, Kobe et al….), don’t forget about a guy who wasn’t an All-Star but earned his way to four rings and built a reputation of professionalism and being clutch.

I know I doubted you Fish. I criticized how many minutes you got, how you appeared to age overnight in the playoffs and said that Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown should play more in the postseason. But last night, you reminded me why you are here and what you’ve done. Thank you.

Sunday can’t come soon enough.

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