Fisher wants to return to the Lakers
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Fresh off a redeye flight from New York to appear on "Live with Regis & Kelly" to Los Angeles to be the latest Lakers player to conduct his "Exit Interview with Phil & Mitch," Derek Fisher barely had a chance to catch his breath before asked whether he would return to the team next season.
"That was quick," quipped the 35-year old Lakers co-captain, who has spent 11 of his 14 seasons in the league with the franchise.
"Yeah," Fisher answered. "Yeah. I've never mixed any statements or positions about winning and wanting to be associated with winning championships and being on the best team in the NBA. We just accomplished it again this year and it would definitely be a great opportunity to do it again next year with largely the same group of guys."
While the Lakers starting point guard, who hasn't missed a regular season game in more than five seasons, let it be known that he hopes to continue that streak while wearing purple and gold, Fisher also informed the assembled media that contract negotiations could be complicated and won't necessarily come down to just him.
"There's a lot of questions as far as [head coach] Phil [Jackson] and his return and I think it impacts a lot of decisions for the front office as well," Fisher said.
Fisher's interview with Jackson and general manager Mitch Kupchak lasted close to an hour, but it wasn't for any goodbyes between him and Jackson, both of whose Lakers future is up in the air after teaming to win their fifth championship together by beating the Boston Celtics last week.
As a team captain, Fisher was responsible for divvying up the Lakers playoff shares.
"It wasn't overly sentimental, per se, but we did have to cover quite a few things," Fisher said. "I told [Phil] before we even got into it really heavily that I wouldn't press the issue and I would respect his process that he needs to go through before he makes his decision."
With Jackson's status still up in the air and Kupchak not allowed to start negotiations with Fisher until July 1, the official start of free agency, Fisher spoke about his situation mostly in generalities.
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"I guess I'll let that process take care of itself," Fisher said. "The best way to say it would just be which is what I think they've always been about doing, which is a commitment to winning.
"Sometimes it's hard to quantify that and put a price on it, but, in our business you have to. You have to find a way to put a price on things that sometimes you can't quantify. I don't think there's any question about Dr. Buss and his commitment to winning and Mitch and his commitment to winning and from there it's just sitting down and working out details. Till July 1st, it's all wishes. Hurry up and get to July 1st, basically."
Fisher explained some issues that could be construed as sticking points when negotiations do begin.
For starters, he doesn't need to start, although he wants to.
"It's a priority, but I don't know if I'd necessarily call it a 'deal breaker.' It just depends," Fisher said. "I don't think I'd ever walk into a meeting with a general manager or a coach and hand them my decision and say, I don't want to start ... I'm never going to give that up, that has to be taken from me."
And even though he turns 36 in August and basketball players' bodies break down at his age, he isn't going to demand a multi-year deal.
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"I'm not set necessarily on that," Fisher said. "I think it depends on the circumstances and the details of how the deal would look and the position of the team and what those needs are. I'm not chasing money, so I'm not looking at just trying to stretch out a deal artificially just to have a certain number, but at the same time I have a strong feeling about what my value is to a team. I can't say I'm set on a number of years, per se. Based on how I feel, I could sign a forever deal. Once we get into the particulars, I think that will start to take care of itself. I think teams are often times pretty clear about what they can't do or are willing to do. We'll see how that goes."
Fisher, who left the Lakers to sign with the Golden State Warriors in 2004, is familiar with the sometimes transient nature of his profession.
"L.A. is home, that's where we started out family, based our family, but we've also been in the business long enough to know that things don't always go the way you want them to go," Fisher said. "As much as we have our feelings about [staying], we're still making sure we keep things in perspective as a family in terms of what decisions we may be forced to make."
When asked if he would like to have Fisher back in the fold next season, Kupchak replied succinctly, "Yes, absolutely."
Fisher was whisked away from the press conference, running to catch a flight to Las Vegas for a meeting in his role as president of the NBA Players' Association. There is still a lot of work for Fisher to do this summer.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten