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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Sources: Fisher free to return to Lakers now

By Marc Stein

Important update to our weekend report regarding the prospect of a return to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran guard Derek Fisher.

Sources briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.

The NBA’s new labor agreement stipulates that a player traded and then waived by the team that acquired him can’t re-sign with his original team for one year or until the traded contract runs out -- whichever comes first. But in Fisher’s case, confusion surrounding his player option for the 2012-13 season led to the belief in some league circles that he had picked up the option before the Houston Rockets bought him out. In reality, sources confirm, Fisher was bought out by Houston before he was eligible to invoke the 2012-13 option, which means that his contract was deemed to have ended June 30, sending Fisher to full-fledged free agency on July 1.

So ...

Plenty of dominoes still have to fall before Fisher, who finished last season with Oklahoma City, actually winds up back at Staples Center in purple and gold. Fisher, for starters, will have to decide how long he’s willing to wait for the Lakers to open up a slot in their backcourt rotation for him. They currently have too many point guards and too high a payroll to sign him now, which account for two of the reasons that L.A. -- as ESPN.com reported Friday -- is shopping Steve Blake and Chris Duhon.

Yet now we know that there are no roadblocks in the rule book blocking Fisher’s return.

He might ultimately decide to jump on the next palatable offer that presents itself, but I’m told that both Fisher and the Lakers have a level of interest in reuniting down the road if the circumstances are right, suggesting that the tension stemming from L.A.’s decision to discard the 38-year-old last spring is fading.