After the Lakers were able to defend their NBA Championship and bring home banner number sixteen, we decided to take a look back at the Lakers 2009-2010 roster and grade each player for their performance this year. We took into account contributions on and off the court, as we all know that every player played a role in the title, no matter how small.
The notion of a player being able to “turn it on” during the playoffs is one of the most obscure puzzles to successfully piece together in all of sports. Five-time NBA champions like Derek Fisher is a man who relishes criticism and doubt during the regular season because all it does is make his postseason greatness that much sweeter to bask in. Derek has probably been the most scrutinized Lakers player since his return to the team in 2007 with many people stating that he’s too old to stick rising point guards like Aaron Brooks and Russell Westbrook. If you really break it down though, has Fisher’s “liability” on defense lost a series for the Lakers in the last three years? Would we have won either title if not for his irreplaceable leadership and clutch shot making? No and heck no.
That’s the thing about Derek. The regular season, at this point in his career, is all about making sure that the team is firing on all cylinders on both ends of the ball, not at all about his own glory. Sure, he’s only a 7.5 ppg and 2.5 apg career average player, but with Fish, it’s all about the intangibles. He’s forged a long and glorious career in the NBA doing all the dirty little things that are seldom at the top of starters’ agendas such as sacrificing his body to take brutal charges, using brute strength to hound opposing guards no matter how big or small and even willingly taking a one-game suspension in the playoffs to send a message as was the case when he slammed Luis Scola to the ground in last year’s West Semifinals against Houston. Very rarely does Derek do any of those things irresponsibly as every move he makes on the court is a product of quick calculations executed by way of an incredibly high basketball IQ.
When you talk about Fish, you can’t begin or end the conversation without mentioning his clutch factor. 0.4 against the Spurs, Game 4 against Orlando, Game 3 in Boston and Game 7 against the Celtics are just a few of the more standout images that will be forever stamped into our Lakers memories of him. As Kobe Bryant stated on Jimmy Kimmel Live recently, “there’s no way we win either title without Derek”. Fisher’s nickname on the team is El Presidente (according to Sasha), a testament to his role as team leader, perhaps even exceeding that of Kobe to some extent. The man did not earn five rings by riding the coattails of Shaq or the Mamba. On every championship team he’s been apart of, he’s individually executed whatever Phil Jackson asked of him for the betterment of the team. The consummate class and dignity with which Derek carries himself on and off the court are characteristics you will be hard pressed to find on every team in the NBA.
This past season, Fisher’s value to our team shined brighter than ever and given the fact that he stepped into every inch of his own greatness during the postseason whether it be the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals without batting an eyelash, I’m going to give him a grade of B+. It may seem a bit high, but again, without him, there would have been no repeat and that’s that.
Next: Kobe Bryant…