Thursday, March 15, 2012
Updated: March 16, 3:33 PM ET
Lakers trade PG Derek Fisher
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had every reason to be pleased after Thursday's noon PT trade deadline.
He pulled off the rare trifecta of shedding payroll while making his team younger and more talented at the same time through two deadline deals. But it was hard for Kupchak to look to the future without expressing a twinge of remorse over trading away a player who has been such an important part of the franchise's past.
The Lakers got the young point guard in Ramon Sessions they've been searching for since the eve of training camp when the Chris Paul trade fell through. But before L.A. could say hello to Sessions, it had to say goodbye to Derek Fisher.
The Lakers first traded Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and their 2012 first-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Sessions and forward Christian Eyenga on Thursday. In a subsequent deal, they sent Fisher and the first-round pick acquired from Dallas in the Lamar Odom trade to Houston for center Jordan Hill.
While Sessions, 25, is much younger than the 37-year-old Fisher and undoubtedly in a better position to help the team moving forward, Kupchak admitted that trading away Fisher, the team's co-captain who was drafted by the franchise in 1996 and went on to win five championships with the Lakers, left him with reservations.
"I'm concerned, yes," Kupchak said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. "I'm not sure that it will translate into a team that performs any less ... but, you can't underestimate Derek's contribution from a chemistry point of view and on the court that he's given to this organization. It can't be underestimated, and you can't say that this team is going to wake up tomorrow and play as if he was never here."
Kupchak said that once the Lakers had a deal in place to obtain Sessions, whom the GM admitted the team has coveted since last season, he pursued the Houston trade to unload Fisher because it would not make sense -- rosterwise or financially -- to have four point guards with Sessions, Fisher, Steve Blake and rookie Darius Morris.
Kupchak said a consideration also was made regarding how awkward a potential transition would have been to keep Fisher and have him accept a supporting role behind Sessions after Fisher's years of starting.
"I know he would have been professional," Kupchak said. "Personally, I think it would have been a tough position to put a player like him in ... It's just hard to do."
Kupchak characterized the trades as "something that we did as an organization, trying to get younger and more athletic."
The Lakers informed Fisher of the trade through his representatives, and Kupchak said he has not spoken to the 16-year veteran directly yet. He also said he did not give Fisher a "heads up" that the trade was coming, but thought Fisher may have "caught wind of the rumor" several days ago.
"As you might imagine, this is pretty emotional for him today," Kupchak said. "We'll talk at the right time."
There is another person the Lakers GM still has yet to speak to regarding the Fisher trade -- Kobe Bryant.
Bryant came into the league with Fisher back in 1996 and has as strong of a relationship with Fisher as any other teammate he's had in his career. Bryant publicly lobbied for Lakers management to re-sign Fisher in the summer of 2010 after the Lakers' championship over the Boston Celtics.
Bryant was not happy with Lakers' brass after not being consulted prior to Mike Brown being hired to replace Phil Jackson this offseason. Sources in the organization said they wouldn't be surprised if Bryant is upset with Fisher being shuttled out of town without Bryant being contacted first.
Kupchak, who also expressed gratitude for the nine seasons Walton served as a "glue guy," said he could not sum up his feelings for Fisher any better than Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss did in a statement released by the team.
"I want to express my deepest gratitude to Derek for everything he has meant to this organization over the years," Buss said in the statement. "Few who have worn the Lakers uniform have done so with as much class as Derek, both on the court and in the community. From his famous 0.4 shot in San Antonio to his clutch performances in the Finals against Orlando and Boston when it mattered most, Derek will always hold a special place not only in my heart, but in the heart of Lakers fans everywhere."
Kupchak said the team hopes Sessions will be available for the Lakers' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday and contribute right away. Hill will have to compete with Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy for backup minutes behind Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, while Eyenga is expected to be assigned to the D-Fenders, the Lakers' D-League affiliate.
"Even though we made two separate deals today, you kind of have to look at it as one big deal," Kupchak said. "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."
Sessions backed up Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists this season. He was expected to opt out of his contract after the season to become a free agent, but he is likely to have a major role with the Lakers alongside Blake, who has been Fisher's backup this season.
"Ramon is a true pro and approached his job in a way that showed that every day," Cleveland general manager Chris Grant said. "Our primary focus continues to center on building this team with our young core and, most importantly, through the draft as we develop a very talented group that can play and succeed together for many years to come."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.