- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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I've never been critical of the stereotypical Los Angeles fans who arrive at Staples Center toward the end of the first quarter of Lakers games and don't get to their seats until the second quarter.
I always took this as a sign of their basketball knowledge and an understanding that the first quarter of an NBA game is often inconsequential to the outcome.
Arriving to a Lakers game in time for player introductions is like showing up to the movie theater in time for the previews. Sure, they might be entertaining, but they really have no bearing on the main attraction you came to see.
The NBA is the only sport where you can by down 20 in the first quarter and still be favored to win the game. Just ask the Utah Jazz. They probably don't think a game has started until they find themselves behind by double digits. The Lakers, who were up on the Jazz by 19 in the second quarter last month before Utah took the lead eight minutes later and eventually won the game, can certainly attest to that.
If you break up an NBA season into quarters, it's really no different. Unless you're the Clippers, your season isn't won or lost in November or December. Yet as the Lakers hit the end of the first quarter of their season, many fans are grumbling about being behind by a few points as if it were the fourth quarter.
The Lakers' recent four-game losing streak conjured up one of many meaningless Phil Jackson stats we've heard ad nauseum over the years. Apparently no Jackson-coached team has ever won a championship after suffering a four-game losing streak. Yes, and no Jackson-coached team had ever lost a 3-1 series lead or been bounced in the first round of the playoffs before it happened four years ago against the Phoenix Suns. What's the point?
You would think a fan base more consumed with parking and concessions during the first quarter of Lakers games would understand that it's a long season and essentially being behind by a couple of baskets doesn't mean you have to sign a big man, trade for a point guard and change your entire defensive philosophy.
Keeping perspective in an environment as oddly knee-jerk as Los Angeles has become with the Lakers can be difficult but Derek Fisher has been able to do it for the past 14 years.
"I haven't watched or listened to as much of the talk and the news [about the Lakers] in probably over a decade now," Fisher said. "I think it's about keeping yourself in a certain place mentally in this business."
It's a good thing Fisher doesn't spend much time tracking Lakers news during the season. If he did it's hard to imagine him mustering up the confidence to be the player he's been during the last two NBA Finals. Listen to talk radio and visit Internet chat rooms. Lakers fans critique Fisher during the season like he is the point guard equivalent of Kwame Brown rather than a five-time champion and team captain.
"There are only so many good guys you can have on your team," Fisher said. "This is not the Olympics. You can't have the best player at every position, but I think we've done quite well the last few years."
Yes, Fisher was the one who ripped into his teammates after a 99-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves which gave the Lakers an 8-0 start to the season. He called their lackluster performance "irresponsible," "reckless" and "disrespectful." He was clearly trying to light a fire under a team he knew was about to take the foot off the gas. The Lakers responded to Fisher's criticism by losing their next two games and losing four straight recently before blowing out the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
"I think you have to have that holistic approach to the season where it's an 82-game set," Fisher said. "Many times you have to break it down into segments. We're just about a quarter of the way through the season and we'll take 14 wins out of 20 games but we'd like to bump that number up the next 20."
Ever the philosopher, Pau Gasol took a broader approach when looking at the Lakers' struggles after their 8-0 start and the perception of the team following its losing streak.
"It's one of the mistakes that humanity has," Gasol said. "We tend to not appreciate what we have and tend to complain too much. Sometimes we have to snap out of it quickly before it's too late."
Fisher knows the team has plenty of time to snap out of it. He's not concerned about a four-game losing streak before Christmas. He knows a double-digit winning streak is just around the corner. He's not worried about being in fourth place in the Western Conference. He knows the standings will probably change a dozen times before the New Year. He simply wants the Lakers to start playing better so they don't find themselves playing catch-up during the second half of the season. If the Lakers are going to be the first team in nearly 25 years to go to four straight NBA Finals, he wants them getting into a rhythm sooner rather than later.
"When you're trying to do what we're doing it requires another level of attention to detail and execution and precision and efficiency that we aren't used to going to until the playoffs," Fisher said. "When we show up it's the game everyone's circled on the calendar. For us there could be maybe five of those games and the other 77 games blend together. So if it's not Lakers-Celtics or Lakers and this team, the rest of them start to run together, but for our opponents our game is circled as soon as the schedule comes out and I don't think we understand that part of it."
It's not that they don't understand it; it's just that they don't necessarily care as much during the first quarter of a season that is still six months away from the fourth quarter.
Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2hMatt Walks, ESPN.com