Man, are the Lakers glad to have Derek Fisher back! At first glance, you wouldn't think the 6-1 point guard would be that much of a factor among the Los Angeles superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. But the league's defending champs have gone 4-1 since Fisher re-joined the team on March 13 after missing the entire season heretofore with a broken foot.

Fisher threw himself a "Welcome Back" party in his return to action when he scored 26 points and dished out eight assists in 37 minutes against the Celtics. In just five games, he has more than doubled his scoring average from last year at 14.6 points per game with an additional 10 minutes of playing time from last season's average of 23.1. He's also putting up career-bests in rebounds, assists and steals.

Fisher came to the Lakers as the 26th pick out of Arkansas-Little Rock in the 1996 Draft and was selected to play in the 1997 Schick Rookie Challenge over All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. As a free agent in 1999, he signed a multi-year contract to remain in Los Angeles, but was more of a role player in the Lakers' "point guard by committee" system alongside Ron Harper and Brian Shaw. It turns out however, that Fisher had a more important role than anyone realized and his absence definitely made the Lakers' hearts grow fonder.

Fisher took time from his game preparations before a matchup with Milwaukee to chat live with fans on NBA.com.
MARISOL from [152.163.201.74], at 1:31pm ET
Do you think as you come back from your injury, the Lakers will be a better team?

Derek Fisher at 1:32pm ET
I think the things that I do that make our team better don't necessarily reflect in the stats. Just providing an extra boost of energy that at times, we've lacked. So I don't look at my numbers statistically, rather more so how I carry myself around the guys and the little things I do to make a difference.
Andrew from [207.97.147.40], at 1:32pm ET
Did you learn anything from being a spectator when you were injured?

Derek Fisher at 1:33pm ET
I learned about how difficult it is to not only win a championship the way we did last year, but to defend that championship. It is something that Phil talked to us about, but I don't think we had an understanding of how difficult it would be. Watching the first five months, I've seen our team go through a lot of adversity and grow as a team. I think we'll be better for it when the time comes. I think you only learn from adversity and we've certainly had our fair share of it this season.
John G. from [12.18.6.133], at 1:34pm ET
Derek, can you talk about why the Lakers' defensive intensity seems to have picked up since you returned to the lineup?

Derek Fisher at 1:35pm ET
I think overall when you add a piece to the puzzle that is good in a particular area, it helps the group. Defense has definitely been one of my strong points over the years. It can only help your team get better when you add a player back on your roster who has a specialty and can do certain things. So defensively, I think having a guy return like myself, who is not only a good individual defender, but a good group defender, I hope we can continue to improve and get back to the type of defense we had for the majority of last season.
Ali from [205.247.251.2], at 1:35pm ET
What team do you think will be the hardest for the Lakers to beat in the playoffs?

Derek Fisher at 1:37pm ET
I'd say this season more so than any, all of the teams in the Western Conference and Philly sticks out in the East. They have equal problems for us as a team. There's no one team that the league fears. We're basically worrying about ourselves as a team so whoever we face, it won't matter. That way, we're the best that we can be. I think if we can focus on what we're supposed to do as a team, we'll be able to overcome any opponent that we face.
Ben from [152.163.197.73], at 1:37pm ET
I`m from Milwaukee. Are you looking for revenge tonight against the Bucks?

Derek Fisher at 1:38pm ET
Any time a team comes into your building and beats you, you definitely want to return the favor. So that will be in the back of our minds. Also the playoff race is so close in the Western Conference, each game is not just a game. A loss could take us from first to fifth or sixth in the standings. The Bucks are a very tough team in the Eastern Conference and we have that whole conference rivalry going as well. It should be a very exciting game.
Jamaal Diaby from [24.178.181.221], at 1:38pm ET
What'z up Derek! How does it feel playing alongside Shaq and Kobe, and winning an NBA Championship?


Derek Fisher at 1:40pm ET
My relationship with those two guys has blossomed and turned into one that I'll always remember as a special one. Definitely they are the two most dominant players in the game, perimeter-wise and interior-wise. We won our championship definitely off the backs of those two. I don't know how long I'll get the chance to be on the team with these guys, but you can't ask for two better stars to play with. They both want to win; they're good competitors; they're good guys to be with. I can't really describe how special it's been to work alongside both those guys.
Jason Woullard from [162.39.131.162], at 1:40pm ET
In my opinion, you are the best on the ball defender in the league. Is footwork the key to setting up your opponent? If so, when do you know you have him zeroed in for the charge or the steal?

Derek Fisher at 1:42pm ET
Defensively, the footwork is definitely the biggest key. I think defense is always moreso related to positioning then strictly physical skill. I'm fortunate to have good physical skill to mix with good positioning the majority of the time. Defense has been something that in junior high, high school, college and into the NBA, it's something I take pride in. Defense is something that no matter how well you're playing on a particular day, it's something you can do well. It's something if you put the work in, you can improve it and you can do it well. It's something I take great pride in.
Randy from [12.18.6.133], at 1:42pm ET
Are you guys ready for the Kings on Sunday? Do you think they're your toughest test in the West?

Derek Fisher at 1:44pm ET
After taking care of business tonight, then Friday we'll get the chance to zoom in on Sacramento. Playing in Sacramento is different than playing against Sacramento. I think they're two different teams. I don't think they present special matchup problems for us. I think they're just a good basketball team all around. They have a number of guys who are capable of playing well. We feel like we can play with and beat any team in this league. We've just had a problem establishing some consistency. So hopefully we'll win tonight and win Friday night and build some momentum for going into Sacramento on Sunday.
Mike from [204.50.249.131], at 1:44pm ET
Who was your idol when you were growing up?

Derek Fisher at 1:45pm ET
I was a Laker fan growing up. So Magic Johnson was the one guy that I always enjoyed watching and was my favorite. I loved the way he played the game, made his teammates better and passed the basketball. Sometimes for me now, it's a greater thrill for me to make an assist than to score a basket. It seemed that way for Magic. Not only was he a great player, but he made everyone else around him great players.
Mike from [204.50.249.131], at 1:46pm ET
How big was Phil Jackson's contribution in your last season and this season?

Derek Fisher at 1:48pm ET
I think the one thing that sticks out about Phil is that he has an ability to almost transfer his mindset, philosophies, beliefs about basketball and the way you should play into his players. As a coach, a lot of times that is the most difficult task, not only getting your players to go out and play, but having a certain mindset before you step out on the court. Where other coaches are more detail-oriented when it comes to plays or certain matchups, Phil is the opposite of that. He's bigger on where your head is when you're out on the floor. He's definitely different from Del Harris whom I played with for a couple seasons and Kurt Rambis who I played with for half a season. I think Phil is one of the top three, if not the best coach to ever coach professional basketball.
ronald clinton from [152.163.213.208], at 1:48pm ET
Who will the third scorer now that Rice is gone?

Derek Fisher at 1:50pm ET
The fact that Kobe and Shaquille are our top two scorers are because they are our best players. So our third scorer doesn't have to be anyone in particular. I don't think you have to have a designated person to be a third scorer to be a good basketball team. Take Philly and Allen Iverson. He definitely carries their scoring end, but the other players provide things energy-wise and defensively that make their team better. They complement Allen in ways that make them successful. I think we're fine. We lead the league in scoring so it's not about scoring. It's about staying consistent on defense for us.
Andrew from [207.97.147.40], at 1:51pm ET
Do you have any advice for people who want to play in college and maybe make it to the NBA?

Derek Fisher at 1:53pm ET
I definitely don't have a meshed formula or magic answer, but the one thing I probably would say is that whatever decision you make, whether it's trying to make your high school team or your college team or trying to make the NBA, you really have to believe in that and put in the energy to achieve it. Success at any level is not preordained. Some of the great college players didn't find their success transferred to the NBA. As an individual, you control what happens to you. I always worked hard and have a work ethic that couldn't be questioned. Even if you don't achieve what you wanted, you'll be a better person for putting in the work that you did to try to get there. Basketball is basically a blessing and a privilege so enjoy it while you can. It definitely is not what life is all about. Believe in who you are and the rest will take care of itself.

Derek Fisher at 1:54pm ET
I'd just like to thank everyone who sent in questions and the fans who didn't get a chance to get their questions answered. Thank you for your support. You are the people who make it possible for us to do what we do every day. Hopefully we can continue to put a product out on the floor that you can continue to be enthusiastic about and continue to support.