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Scott Howard-Cooper

Derek Fisher, 35, has not missed a regular-season game since 2004-05.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Defiant Fisher holds off skeptics and Father Time

Posted Jan 5 2010 10:23AM

It is such a Derek Fisher moment. No shifty move to leave the opponent in his wake, no sleight of hand with the ball. Just straight ahead and determined.

He says he is not going away. Not this summer when his Lakers contract expires, when others might be weighing retirement, and not any time this season. He says it with insistence.

Time is barreling down the lane and Fish is planting his feet to take a charge.

He is 35 years old and has played into June two seasons in a row, logging 207 games in the process. The skeptics are lining up, waiting for Fisher to break down or get taken apart by a younger, speedier guard in the playoffs. He knows all this. He knows all this and yet he says in a pointed message to the queue:

"You'll be waiting a long time."

Typical of the approach that has stamped a very successful career -- No. 24 pick in 1996 to a major role on four championship teams in L.A. -- Fisher is refusing to back down. That probably has something to do with the fact that the Lakers won the title seven months ago with him starting and are 27-6 in 2009-10 with him starting. The lineup worked before. It continues to work.

"When you have a team like ours, there are only so many questions you can ask," he said. "I knew going into the offseason that that was going to be one of the top questions that other people -- team critics, whoever -- would have about me or our team. That's the only place you can maybe try to look. What are you going to say about Ron Artest or Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol? I was, I guess, ready for it in the sense that it's not surprising. But it's not something that I lose a lot of sleep over. My whole career, my playoff numbers have been better than my regular-season numbers."

Or close enough.

In 13 completed regular seasons with the Lakers, Warriors and Jazz: 9.9 points, 3.2 assists, 40.4 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from, behind the arc.

In 11 years of playoff appearances with L.A. and Utah: 8.7 points, 2.6 assists, 42.3 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from behind the arc.

Points and assists are slightly down in the postseason, and that's understandable. Bryant keeps especially close control of the ball in the postseason -- Kobe's scoring and assists ticked up from the regular season to the playoffs each of the last two years of Finals appearances. Still, as the numbers show, Fisher's shooting percentage goes up in the playoffs.

There are some slight changes in playing time: from 29.8 minutes a game last regular season to 28.9 in the postseason, from 27.4 to 31.6 in 2007-08 and from 27.9 to 27.8 in 2006-07 with the Jazz.

"There are obviously certain days, certain nights, where just because the body is the body, you're a little bit more sore or there's certain things you feel maybe more than a guy that's 25," Fisher explained. "But because of the type of work that I've done, the return to feeling myself is real quick. I've done a lot with overall flexibility and mobility, so I don't tighten up as much to begin with, which allows me to basically make the effort that I need to make time and time again. I'm not getting worn down really."

Durability has not been an issue . Fisher has gone 82 for 82 each of the last four seasons and six of the last seven, and counting playoffs he has made 420 of a possible 422 games since the start of 2005-06.

He has started all 33 games this season, despite struggling with his shot at 37.3 percent. The good news for the Lakers is that maybe they have others on the roster who can pick up the slack and, besides, their fortunes never rode on his scoring.

The good news for Fisher, meanwhile, is that he is averaging just 27 minutes a game, perfectly in line with the preferred plan to keep him fresh for the months that really matter.

"No problem with minutes with Derek," coach Phil Jackson said.

Fisher is feeling so good at 35 that he noted how "this is not my last season. Not by far. Not even close."

More feet planting. That is such a Derek Fisher thing, for now and maybe a long time to come.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.

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