Derek Fisher is as amiable an athlete as professional sports offers when it comes to interacting with the media. He'll rarely if ever cuts an scrum short, goes out of his way to provide thoughtful answers, and almost without fail treats every question with cordial respect, even when he obviously doesn't think much of it. However, over the last 24 hours, he's been testier than usual. Not rude, but just in less of a mood to play the game. This was apparent in the tone of his voice after last night's loss, and again while dealing with the media this afternoon. Still, even in a somewhat agitated state, interesting perspectives were mined.
First, Fisher was asked by a reporter if after Monday's loss, the second time a series began down 0-1, seeds of doubt are ever planted. Because he and the media member "go back a long way," Fish said he'd refrain from saying what he truly felt, opting instead for something more introspective:
"No, I don't think that at least, in my opinion where one game, one situation, one bad play, one bad decision creeps into your mind in terms of what your end goal is. Those that have been successful and the best at anything have always proven and shown the ability to bounce back and respond from the most adverse situations.
"We've done it before. Obviously we can't just sit back and rely on what we've done in the past but I just don't think that... (pause) It's not supposed to be easy. You're not supposed to go through this thing according to a plan. You just keep battling and figuring it out."
Later, Fisher was asked if he knew what was "going on" with the team. If the Lakers "know who [they] are." If they're "the team that they want to be." The increasingly awkward exchange began to feel like a session on a psychiatrist's couch, and with each passing second, Fisher's "are you seriously asking me this question?" thought bubble grew more visible. (Kobe Bryant, who'd just taken a seat next to his teammate, struggled to avoid laughing.) Still, despite the visible disdain for the moment, the explanation contained weight:
"You're not a champion until you're a champion. Everything in between that is what it is. You just deal with it until it comes. Until the final buzzer and the Larry O'Brien trophy is yours, you haven't gotten to where you wanna be. In 2008, we kind of waltzed our way to the NBA Finals and then we didn't win. The last couple of years, we've had more interesting, dynamic times getting to the Finals, and we figured out a way to win in the Finals. So we've just done what's necessary to win.
"And we've accepted the fact that it won't be perfect. We're gonna lose games. There are gonna be times when we're not playing up to our abilities. But if it was just as easy and have it go as though it was written, then there would be a lot more teams that have done what we're trying to do. There's a reason why we're trying to become one of three or maybe four teams ever to make this walk four times in a row."
Kobe's take on the how the team addresses its bouts with inconsistency and poor execution, which I found quite interesting:
"The only thing that we do is we go by how we're taught. Phil's way is always just look at the game of basketball. Mistakes that we make on court and not so much look into the Psyche and the emotions that surround it, but just look at, from an X's and O's standpoint, what did we do? We give up that lead, we turned the ball over about five times.
"Now you look at how you prevent those turnovers, taking care of the ball, things of that nature, and we just stick to that.
Kobe's explanation for why he missed the potential game-winning three-pointer in Game 1? "I'm not clutch." Was the response unnecessarily sarcastic? Perhaps. Did I laugh pretty hard? Oh, yeah.
Phil Jackson talks about Dallas' final play, which led to Pau Gasol's inopportune foul on Dirk Nowitzki and confusion over whether PJ could substitute a player during a dead ball. The Lakers filed a formal protest after Phil was forced to play Andrew Bynum instead of his preferred substitution (Steve Blake, to match Dallas' lineup), but a league rep said the referees made the correct ruling.
Lamar Odom talks about bouncing back and the challenges of defending Nowitzki. Personally, I hope he spends even more time on the German, especially down the stretch. For that matter, I'd also like to see Phil give Ron Artest a crack at disrupting Nowitzki's rhythm with his physicality.
Gasol, on blowing the second half lead and poor execution plaguing the team of late:
If Pau wants the ball more -- and he does -- he'll need to make sure he's working to make himself a better target with deeper position down low, even when the ball doesn't find him. He talked about the importance of taking these steps.