Following a very busy morning for the Lakers ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, Mitch Kupchak spent about 35 minutes with the media. The addition of Ramon Sessions to L.A.'s backcourt was obviously a topic of conversation, but not surprisingly Kupchak's time was dominated by questions related to the departure of Derek Fisher. In his opening remarks, Kupchak welcomed Sessions, along with Jordan Hill and Christian Eyenga. He thanked Jason Kapono, and had some very nice words about Luke Walton, the other long time Laker sent packing today.
From there, he talked about Fisher:
"It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant to this organization on the court, off the court. If you’ve seen or read the release that our owner Dr. Buss put out, I think that puts it as succinctly as possible what he means and what he meant to this organization. From the bottom of our heart, my heart, I thank him for his contributions and I wish him well...
...I have not talked to Derek yet. I’ve talked to his representative and representatives and as you might expect, he’s probably not quite ready to have that kind of discussion. I don’t know if he’s spoken to anybody else in the organization. I do expect to speak to him shortly, perhaps today. Maybe tomorrow. I understand completely. It’s hard. It’s one of the hardest parts of a job that a general manager has – separating the emotions of a relationship that you built for many, many years, in this case over 10 years. He was drafted by Jerry West I believe in 1996 and now here it is in  and he went away for a year or two and he’s been with us for many, many years. So, it’s a hard thing to do, but that is what general managers do. Part of our job is separating the emotion and keeping the franchise moving forward and that’s what we tried to do."
Rightly, as I wrote this afternoon. But it doesn't make the decision any easier. And as Kupchak notes, the void Fisher leaves in the locker room is significant:
Click below for more video and quotes from Kupchak, on Fisher's contributions and his personal connection with him, the reasons the Lakers felt they needed to trade him, roster balance, and more.
On the role financial considerations played in today's deals:
"In general, financial considerations are a part of every deal we make. Every owner, every general manager, that’s one of the things you speak about when you’re about to make a deal or are contemplating a deal. There’s always financial considerations, especially going forward with the new collective bargaining agreement."
On the potential problems pulling Fisher from the rotation, and how strongly his leadership and locker room role were considered before pulling the trigger:
"It crossed our minds, but I know he would have been professional. Personally I think it would have been a tough position to put a player like him in… It’s just hard to do. Additionally, we would have three point guards, all of which were very highly paid, and it just didn’t make sense to put that much resources into one position knowing that at the most two players can split the time, and it probably wouldn’t have made our job easier for the coach as well, to have to make a decision between three players, one which is an emotional favorite for a lot of people. It’s a decision that we made. I know Mike, coach Brown, had a great attachment to Derek, and it was tough on him to do that. But once again, it’s something that we did as an organization, trying to get younger and more athletic."
"It was discussed (his locker room importance/intangibles) and every time we talked about making a deal, it was discussed again. Even though we made two separate deals today, you kind of have to look at it as one big deal. One deal was designed to bring a player here and the other deal was designed to make it easier for the player you’re bringing to succeed, and on some level make it easier on the player that he’s replacing to continue with a career or the effect in the locker room. Then we got lucky, I think, getting a big man to help us in the front court. So I would look at it, even though it was two separate deals, as one big deal."
There's no question Fisher's leadership will be missed, and the Lakers will need someone to slip into that role as a locker room counterbalance to Kobe Bryant, one he executed so well. There will be an adjustment. Still, it's probably easier and cleaner than keeping him on the team, leaving Mike Brown in the very difficult position of being the guy who sits him down, who breaks his consecutive game streak, and so on. It's completely unfair to assume Fisher would have blown up the locker room, but at the same time, he wouldn't have liked losing his minutes. Either he or Steve Blake needed to go, and from a basketball standpoint at least, Blake is a better player at this point.
Cold as it may seem, if Fisher wasn't going to play, moving him was a good option even before considering the financial end of things.
Kupchak correctly noted that making the deal allowed the Lakers to better balance their roster, avoiding a glut at point guard, removing one superfluous small forward, and adding potentially useful depth up front with Hill. They'll now be spending money on players who will be playing (Sessions, and to a lesser extent Hill) instead of two guys who wouldn't (Walton, Fisher).
It makes sense and the Lakers are a better team now than they were this morning. It's also cold, inelegant, and a little uncomfortable. I'm not exactly sure if there is really a good way to end the Derek Fisher Era in L.A. before Fish ended it himself, and unfortunately the modern NBA offers very little space for a front office to get sentimental:
On the difficulty in trading Fisher, and the personal relationship he's developed with him over time:
Kupchak also talked about the difficulty in communicating potential trades with players before they get put out by the media:
This is an area in which I feel some sympathy for players and management alike. Kupchak didn't give Fisher a heads up before the trade went down, because in today's world you just can't do it. Too many things can go wrong. At the same time, someone like Fisher deserves to learn he's been traded from the team doing the deal, not NBA TV or ESPN's ticker.
Kupchak said he called Fisher, and his agent, immediately after the trade went through, but it was too late. Well documented communication issues aside, fundamentally I'm not sure this is a matter of callous Lakers management so much as a reflection of the world in which we live.