Lakers’ Fisher feels primed to keep going
Less than a month after the Lakers won the NBA championship, after he made two momentous three-point shots in Game 4 of the NBA Finals and after the parade down Figueroa and the celebration at the Coliseum, Derek Fisher was back at work in the gym.
He refused to rest on the team’s accomplishment of winning the franchise’s 15th title. Fisher wanted to get his body in the right shape to help the Lakers repeat and, equally important, to show that he is fit to play beyond this season.
Fisher, 35, in his 14th season and the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million, said he plans on playing beyond the 2009-10 NBA season.
“I’m definitely not shutting it down after this season,” Fisher said after the Lakers’ practice Monday.
He plays point guard, a position in which so many younger players are quick and looking to attack him. Fisher knows that teammates Jordan Farmar, 22, and Shannon Brown, 23, are looking to push him for the starting job.
Fisher is not ready to think about retirement.
“I don’t see any reason why he can’t play past this season,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “I know that we all think that we can get away with age, but age does have a tendency to level us out as we go along. But he’s done such a great job of keeping his whole physique and his training together, it’s awful hard to see any flaws in him right now.”
Fisher said he spoke with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak so he was aware of where Fisher stands.
“It was something that I . . . shared with Mitch just so he didn’t have to guess because of certain planning that needs to be in place for him in terms of this organization,” Fisher said. “At this point, I’m just concentrating on the things I need to do to lay out the type of performance individually and having it fit collectively to make sure we win the championship.
“Anything short of that, anybody and everybody starts trying to find reasons why we didn’t. The first person they are going to point to is [the point guard]. I’ve accepted it and I’m relishing the opportunity to continue to prove that age is not some kind of automatic you’ve got a sticker on your forehead that says you can’t play anymore.”
Besides the training, Fisher had a hectic summer in which he wrote a book, “Character Driven: Life, Lessons and Basketball,” and had his first basketball camp in Los Angeles.
He also has played for the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz, but Fisher hopes he can finish his career with the Lakers.
“I hated to see Emmitt Smith have to leave the Cowboys [and finish in Arizona]. So, yeah, I’d love to be here,” Fisher said.
“I hope because of the results of our team success, I’m going to allow that to be my best resume builder, which is to hopefully lead our team to another championship, and that’ll make things a lot easier I think for all parties involved.”
Kobe contract talks
The regular season starts in three weeks. Will Kobe Bryant have a contract extension by then?
A source close to the discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly, indicated there had been productive meetings recently and that both sides were hopeful a deal would be done before the Lakers open up against the Clippers on Oct. 27.
Bryant, 31, will make $23 million this season and $24.8 million next season, though he can opt out of his contract next July.
On top of the $47.8 million he could earn over the next two seasons, Bryant can sign a three-year extension worth another $86 million to $91 million, depending on NBA salary-cap figures to be determined in 2011.
A Lakers repeat?
According to a survey of NBA general managers, the Lakers are strongly favored to win the championship this season.
In the annual survey conducted by NBA.com, 60.7% thought the Lakers would win the title this season, while Boston and Cleveland each received 17.9% of the vote.
One of only two teams are expected to win the Western Conference, according to general managers who responded to the poll: 75.9% picked the Lakers and 24.1% chose San Antonio.
The race for most valuable player could be one-sided as well: Cleveland forward LeBron James received 69% of the vote, Bryant received 17.2% and Orlando center Dwight Howard had 6.9%.
The league polled all 30 general managers, though not all of them responded to every question.
The Lakers’ starters drilled the reserves in a Saturday night scrimmage that was closed to the media.
“They ran the table,” Jackson said. “They were very anxious about beating up on the other guys.”
The one surprise was that Andrew Bynum played on the second unit. Lamar Odom was with the starters, as was Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Fisher.
Jackson apparently feels more comfortable with a unit that was very effective in last season’s playoffs, with the obvious substitution of Artest for Trevor Ariza.
Statistics were not kept, but Bryant played well, to no one’s great surprise.
“He was motivated,” Gasol said. “He was rested.”