Point Guard Derek Fisher Re-Joins the Lakers
Today the Los Angeles Lakers officially announced the signing of point guard Derek Fisher. Fisher was originally drafted by the Lakers and spent the first 8 years of his career with the organization before signing a free-agent contract with Golden State. During his Laker tenure Fisher was a vital member of three NBA Championship teams and appearing in 117 playoff games for the purple and gold. Per team policy, terms of the deals were not released, but it has been reported by multiple news sources as being a three-year, $14 million dollar deal. (Photo by Wendi Kaminski/NBAE/Getty Images)
Mitch Kupchak's Opening Statement
At the conclusion of our season we identified a need that would be our main focus during the off-season. That need that we identified was a veteran ball handling guard. That’s not to say that we weren’t happy with the guards that we have. We’re very happy with our young guards. At the time we didn’t have Javaris Crittenton, but we felt we need a veteran ball handling guard that had a presence on and off the court, in the locker room, and would be very productive on the court as well. Unbeknownst to us at that time Derek Fisher, along with his wife Candace who is here today, was going through what I would suspect to be a very agonizing decision trying to balance his career and family. As you know Derek and his family made an unprecedented decision and with the cooperation of an organization, that the NBA and the Lakers respect in the Utah Jazz, he was released from his contract to pursue family interest. I would suspect that because of our relationship with Derek over the years and the medical facilities that LA offers we were able to recruit and bring Derek back to Los Angeles. I am here today to welcome back Derek Fisher.
Derek Fisher's Opening Statement
Thank you all for being here today. It’s a very special day filled with a lot of emotion for myself and my family so we’ll get right to it. I’ll get to everyone as best as I can. Initially what I think is important to reiterate are the decisions of the Jazz and the NBA made to allow this to happen today. Allowing my family and I, which had never happened before in our league, to make a decision that as a family was best for us. To get to a city with medical facilities and medical care that would allow us feel comfortable with the balance of our life. First and foremost I have to thank the Jazz and their organization and also the NBA for allowing us to pursue this opportunity, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here today as a member of the Lakers, so it’s important that I recognize them really for what they’ve done for us. As a family we’re looking forward to Tatum living a full and vibrant life for years to come. We feel that this decision will help her do that as best as possible and so we’ll be eternally grateful to the Jazz organization and my teammates and the guys I played with there and the staff members from the Jazz that we really became close to even though we were only there for one year, so we’d like to thank them. Second, thank you Mitch and the Lakers organization for opening their arms and opening their doors to pursuing this opportunity. When the decision was made to basically terminate my contract at the time we had no idea what would be available in terms of teams and opportunities and we had a very short list of cities to work from. It included Miami, included Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Memphis, San Francisco and kind of on the fringes of that were Cleveland and Boston. We had several conversations with medical personnel in each of the cities and once we were able to zero in on the city, this being Los Angeles, we felt very solid about the care Tatum would receive. Then from there the focus went to the teams here in Los Angeles. Obviously there are two teams and I had no idea which team would be willing to bring me on in terms of my services. So thanking Mitch, Dr. Buss, and Mr. & Mrs. Anschutz, and Tim Leiwke, and the entire Laker family because this is truly an honor and something our family will be thankful for for a long time to come. We feel great about this decision to come back and continue our career as professionals in terms of our family and also have great care in this city. We’re excited about being here and looking forward to it in a lot of ways because we are confident and comfortable that our children are where they need to be in terms of their medical care. I’m sure a lot of you will have questions that get more specific than that, but I wanted to cover that right away.
So many things went into today. There were a lot of hours, a lot of conversations, and once we were able to get to a point where Los Angeles was identified. Obviously thank my wife and my family for putting up with me. We’ve been through a lot the last 4 or 5 years as a family. Leaving Los Angeles initially, going up to Oakland, and then traded from Oakland over to Salt Lake City and then having the situation we had with Tatum. We’ve been through a lot with the moving and putting our kids in different schools, the adjustments to different communities. Being here today and now feeling like we’re back within a family, back within our family, immediate and extended, it’s a great day and one that we’ll remember forever. So to my wife who’s here, you don’t have to take any photos of her or anything, she’ll be mad if you do that. To my wife I’m the one that always sits up and makes the statements and everybody says whatever they feel about what I do on and off the court and often times our significant others and wife go, not unnoticed, but they don’t receive the attention they deserve. For my wife I think about all the changes we’ve been through the last 4 or 5 months and what we’ve been through as a family, she’s been the strength and the one that’s held our house together, our family together, as I’ve continued to try and play basketball, chase my career, and do the things I have to do to support our family. She’s been the one that’s held it together, held me together, so I’m thankful to be sitting here today, to have a job because that makes life easier. When you’re a husband, a father, and a provider you need a job. I’m thankful that I can have a family that I love and they love me. We’re really excited about the rest of our lives and looking forward to the opportunities that we’re going to have on and off the court. From there I can’t name how many people have been involved in this decision, so I won’t start running down names and position, but everyone knows the role that they’ve played and how important they are to me and my family. I’m thankful to you, we’re thankful to you and you’ll be duly recognized as time goes on. So I guess now we get into questions and answers in some form and fashion and get everyone out of here at a decent hour after fighting this traffic.
Could you update us on Tatum
Tatum’s status right now is moving in the right direction and a great direction. We’ve had 3 rounds of treatment and she has progressively got better each time we’ve been to New York. Right now we’re due back in New York soon to get a follow up evaluation to the last treatment and really give us a very accurate idea of how she’s doing. She’s doing great, moving in the right direction, and we felt comfortable now after 3 rounds of treatment are where we can settle into and we’ll be able to transition into observation and evaluation here in Los Angeles. Our doctor in New York will remain our treating physician, if there are any treatments that ever become necessary in the future, but we’ve found the collective group of doctors that we need in the Los Angeles area that we’ll be able to transition into very soon.
How surprised are you that the Jazz and the NBA did this for you?
I’m not surprised because I think most people will find that when you get an opportunity to spend time with a lot of guys in our league and guys in other sports you’ll find that they are really kind hearted, thoughtful, considerate young men that are out there competing and playing in a lot of these sports. Because of negative stories that often hit the front page or the top stories a lot of that kind of gets lost in the shuffle. I’m not surprised, definitely not by the Jazz and their response that would allow someone to think of their family first because that’s what they always prided themselves in as an organization. I think the NBA often times as a league takes a lot of image hits because of individual decisions that are made by players or management or anyone involved with our league at times. But I think what you’ll find more times than not that if you’ve really got a chance to be around in more personal settings with athletes and people that compete in the NBA is that they’re really hundreds of great young men that are great husbands and great fathers. They do the best that they can on a day in and day out basis. So it doesn’t surprise me, it may surprise some people but it doesn’t surprise me, that when things come right down to it and there’s something that an individual really needs from a team or from our league and it’s a situation like this more times than not you’ll find they step up and do the right thing.
Has Kobe called you regarding your free agency?
Actually he has not called me related to my decision as a player. The conversations Kobe and I have had the last several weeks have been exclusively about our families. I wasn’t surprised when he called me about my family and my situation, but it felt great to hear from him because of our relationship. Because of what I’m going through with our daughter and him having two little girls himself it took our relationship to a deeper level. There was just another link there having daughters and knowing that as a Dad there almost nothing more special to you other than your wife that means the most to you is the health and the well being of your little girl. That’s what we’ve exclusively talked about as we’ve talked in recent weeks. Obviously I’m aware or what he’s going through and the decisions that he’s making or not making, but I’ve always kept my comments regarding that at zero. It’s not my place to judge or say what’s right or wrong in terms of his decision.
You mentioned other cities that you might have gone to, how much did the “home” aspect play into your decision to come to Los Angeles?
The aspect of us having a history here in Los Angeles really factored in after we identified Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles as the place we could get the best care. Once that happened then of course between the Lakers and Clippers, because of the history and the relationship between Mitch and I and the 20s, 30s of people that still work here and are apart of this family the comfort level was there. In terms of making our initial decision to identify this city, Los Angeles came from our doctor, we got the list from him and from there we were able to work through the different things we needed to identify. Really it’s a three pronged approach to finding the best place for us four because we have a treating physician in New York. You also need a pediatrician that has some experience with this, a pediatric ophthalmologist who will watch the eyes for us, and then a pediatric oncologist who specializes in cancers for kids. Once we identified that group that we could find that here, having history here in Los Angeles period, we zeroed in. From there it just became a matter of having discussions with the individual teams.
How exciting is it to be back in LA?
It’s extremely exciting. Probably just today I’m getting a chance to start to think about the basketball aspects of coming back. I’ve been a little guarded because of how many things have gone into getting here, not knowing if this moment would ever come. It’s exciting to think about working with Kobe, working alongside of him and all the guys on the team. I think this team over the last couple years even though it doesn’t maybe feel that way Mitch and the guys that have been here because of spoiling themselves and ourselves in the past as we were winning championships it doesn’t seem like there’s been a great deal to be proud about, but any team that’s made the playoffs the last couple years in the Western Conference has done a lot. The Western Conference is about as tough as it gets. The youth that Kobe and the guys have played with and battled with and all the injuries with key guys being in and out of the lineup the last two years, to still make the playoffs and be competitive in the Western Conference is phenomenal. So I’m looking forward to adding what I can add to, not feeling that I’m an answer or a solution to anything, but hopefully just adding value and depth and experience and allowing us to win a few more games so that we aren’t a 7 or 8 seed, but a 2, 3, 4 seed with home court advantage in the first round. Allowing ourselves to build momentum as he go into the playoffs.
What effect will your signing have on the Kobe Bryant situation? Do you think your signing will have a positive impact on Kobe?
I can't answer accurately, but I'd like to think so and I hope so. Like I said, I have made a concerted effort not to question or even mention about what he said, comments that he's made. That's just not the relationship we've had since I left here. We've gotten closer from the time I've left until now, as opposed to, when we played together we were close, but it's gotten even closer since I've been gone. It's almost like we were forced to talk more because we didn't see each other everyday. I'd hope that me returning and adding some familiarity to the situation in terms of the triangle offense and just the feeling of camaraderie and family that we established years ago that it would help in his decision. I can't say that it will, I hope so. Like I said, I don't come in here feeling like I am the answer to anything, but I hope that I get a chance to play with him forever. I hope that I get to finish my career playing alongside him, lord know that with how young he is, he'll be playing longer than I will. I hope to be able to finish up playing along side of him.
How much thought, if any, did you give to stepping away for a season entirely, given your situation?
The thoughts about stepping away from basketball were there because of the decision I was making. Like I said, I did not know what was out there or what would be out there once the decision was made. I knew that there was a very short list of cities that I could even play in, in terms of taking care of and providing for my family, and then being able to play basketball. When I made the decision, I didn't know out of those 5 cities and the teams in those cities what opportunities would be there. Really just by faith I made my decision and I felt comfortable with it and I knew worst case that basketball is not something that has really defined who I am as a man and as a person and I felt confident that if basketball was not to be a major part of my life right now for a variety of reasons, obviously with Tatum being first, I could move on with life and be happy and just as fulfilled doing other things. The thought was there, the concern was there, but it was not one of fear that if I did step away from basketball that I would regret the decision or that I would feel bad about it. I actually felt that we would be ok either way.
Since you were looking in LA, did you give any thought to playing for the Clippers and what was the main reason for choosing between the teams? Whoever made a good offer first or who was closer to a championship?
Mitch: you were talking with the clippers
Derek: Yeah I was talking with the clippers, they're in LA too. What's wrong with this guy? Once medically we were in good shape and we knew that Tatum could get great care, the thoughts about, Ok now I can think about playing basketball again and which team is best. Those thoughts immediately started to happen. And then from there, knowing that I want to play basketball; that I love the game, of course you have a responsibility to find the best opportunity you can, at that point. It wasn't driven by any one particular thing. It wasn't driven by financials, it wasn't driven by the status of the team or if one team was closer to this goal or that goal. It was really was what I felt was best for me and my family in terms of the fit. And then obviously as a basketball player, having played for this organization for so long and shared so many great memories and moments and times with so many individuals that are still here, including this knucklehead right here, then the conversations started to progress at a higher speed than with other teams.
Did you ever see yourself in the blue and red of the Clippers instead of the purple and gold of the Lakers?
Being here for 8 years and winning 3 championships, I never thought I'd wear another jersey. And so with the changes of the past 3 seasons and wearing 2 different jerseys, it's something that in this business you finally have to open your eyes to. You think that you'll just be somewhere forever and life's just going to go according to plan and that's just not the case. I think that I could see myself wearing any jersey at that point, but now I don't really have to quite worry about that so much. I can put this one back on and feel good about it.
With all that has gone on, where do you and your wife find your strength?
The resolve to bring us through to this moment and moments going forward, in my opinion, and I feel comfortable speaking for my wife as well, really just came through our faith in god. I really don't think that either one of us claim to have the individual strength that we could run back to you how we got to this point. It's just something that we've woken up every day and each day one at a time trying to do our best for that day and it's been really stressful and really emotional and it has put a strain on our family at times. But like I said earlier, I think the strength in my wife has given me strength and I think the strength in Tatum and seeing what she's been through and the fact that she wakes up everyday just ready to have fun and be a one year old. That's inspiring to us as husband and wife and as parents. I think the resolve and strength has started from our faith and then through people around us and the support and the prayers of my former teammates in Utah and that extended family and now my Lakers family and all the prayers from that we are being sent from people even before the possibility of me coming back. The support has been overwhelming and I think we gain strength from so many different sources outside of ourselves and I think that is what has allowed us to hold on strong.