Derek Fisher almost missed the playoffs this year, flying around the country to find the best treatment possible for his toddler daughter Tatum's cancerous eye. On the day of her first of a series of radiation treatments to shrink the tumor, he hurried back from New York to Salt Lake City, where he made a dramatic entrance midway through the game, then forced a key turnover and hit a key three-pointer. Who could forget?
For me, Game 2 of the second round series against Golden State was the most exciting game of the playoffs.
At the time we were told the treatment had gone well. But retinoblastoma can result in the loss of an eye -- an outcome the Fishers had hoped to avoid with a new therapy just recently developed at NYU Medical Center.
After the news conference, Fisher and wife Candace were flying to New York for another medical appointment Tuesday.
"Outwardly she's doing great. Her spirits are good," Fisher said of Tatum.
He said his desire to leave Utah does not mean that medical care here is weak. Rather, Fisher said he and his wife need a place that has the "right combination" of specialists.
He declined to identify the cities under consideration. Many NBA players work apart from their families, but it's not an option for him. He and Candace have four children.
"For me and my family, we just don't believe in it. ... I don't think I could be the player I could be if I had to carry that load," Fisher said.
Now, if Derek Fisher is going to sign with another NBA team, it will be in a city where his daughter can get fantastic treatment for retinoblastoma. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune has a hunch and some insight:
I'm going to guess that Fisher winds up back with the Lakers. He was the conscience of their championship teams and is still beloved in L.A. The Lakers have a starting point guard job that's open and there's no learning curve for Fisher with the triangle offense.
Fisher's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Fisher would not be sitting out next season and probably would sign during this July window for free agents. Bartelstein wouldn't say what cities would fit Fisher's needs but it's safe to assume they're New York, Los Angeles, etc.
Steve Luhm, checking in from vacation, gives us a list of NBA cities with retinoblastoma treatment centers: Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Memphis, Tenn., New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Toronto.
Let's take a moment to acknowledge that the Jazz -- a team that just made it to the Western Conference Finals -- has done an amazing thing by letting Fisher go. He may even end up on a conference rival, and if backup Ronnie Brewer takes his minutes and makes a key turnover in next year's playoffs, and the Jazz lose a close series, letting Fisher go for nothing will be second-guessed to no end.
But it shouldn't be. Families, especially with little kids, they should be together, right? And little kids with cancer should get the best possible treatment right? That matters more than who plays backup point guard for the Jazz -- and I'm thrilled that even the Jazz see it that way.
I also hope that the team gets some good karma from all this. If they're seen as classy, perhaps it helps them attract a free agent or two through the years.
UPDATE: Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune reports the timing of this announcement is not motivated by news that Tatum's condition has gotten worse.