Derek Fisher, James Harden have Lakers memories to confront
Derek Fisher has a career’s worth of Lakers moments to remember.
James Harden has one he’d rather forget.
For better or worse, the Oklahoma City duo will confront those memories when the Thunder plays the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
“It seems that’s just the way it’s supposed to be,” Fisher told reporters in Oklahoma City about a matchup that starts Monday night with Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It will be the first time Fisher has faced his former team in the playoffs.
The veteran point guard spent 121/2 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Lakers, winning five titles. He was beloved for his gritty play and clutch shooting, making “0.4 seconds” a phrase that triggers smiles in fans who remember his catch-and-shoot jumper that beat San Antonio in the 2004 playoffs.
Fisher was not easily replaced, though the Lakers certainly tried. Repeatedly.
The 37-year-old momentarily appeared to be thrust into a reserve role in December when the Lakers thought they had acquired Chris Paul from New Orleans. But NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the trade, and Fisher remained the starter.
That changed in March, when the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions and traded Fisher to Houston. Fisher negotiated a buyout with the Rockets and signed with Oklahoma City, where he has become the backup to Russell Westbrook.
Fisher has played the Lakers twice since joining the Thunder. Oklahoma City won, 102-93, on March 29 but suffered an elbow-marred 114-106 loss in double overtime on April 22.
Harden’s head was on the receiving end of that elbow from the Lakers’ Metta World Peace, sustaining a concussion. World Peace was suspended for seven games, his appearance in the Lakers’ first-round Game 7 victory over Denver on Saturday marking his first game back with the team.
Harden said he doesn’t care if World Peace won’t fist-bump him before the game because he’s not a starter.
“My focus is going out there and doing whatever it takes to win,” Harden said. “I’m not worried about him or what he has to say. We got four games to win in this series and that’s what we’re focused on.”
The fans in Oklahoma City don’t figure to move on quite as easily.
“It’s going to be loud in there,” Harden said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
As far as the matchup goes, Fisher said he doesn’t have any special insight to provide on his former team. Not that there’s much about the Lakers the Thunder doesn’t already know.
“I don’t think there are any secrets to tell about their team,” Fisher said. “I don’t think Kobe [Bryant] is a secret. I don’t think Pau Gasol is a secret. You don’t need any insight to know how great those two guys are.… I don’t know if there’s anything special that I need to tell our guys other than just embrace this moment and embrace the challenges that are in front of us and have fun out there.”
The Thunder will go into Game 1 having had eight days of rest after finishing off the Dallas Mavericks with a first-round sweep. The lengthy layoff has helped Thunder center Kendrick Perkins recover from a strained right hip muscle he sustained against the Mavericks.
It has also given Fisher and Harden more time to think about what it would feel like to play the Lakers.
“Any time teams play against the Lakers,” Fisher said, “it just means more.”
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