Former Lakers point guard has fresh start

Updated: July 20, 2004, 11:16 AM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With two point guards already under contract, the signing of Derek Fisher could leave the Golden State Warriors with an overcrowded backcourt.

But Fisher sees only depth and competition. That's why he left the Los Angeles Lakers and spurned several other suitors to sign with a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years.

"I'm not coming to take anything away from anybody that's already here," Fisher said Monday. "That's the nature of sports. The competition part of it is what we love. I've never been shy about competing."

Fisher agreed to a six-year, $37 million deal with the Warriors, who hope he will provide leadership and a winning attitude to a franchise that's been absent from the playoffs longer than any other. Fisher won three NBA championships with the Lakers.

Houston and Seattle ardently pursued Fisher, and the Lakers hoped he would return. But Fisher believes the Warriors are headed in the right direction under new executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin -- and Golden State's top-dollar offer didn't hurt, either.

"I wasn't interested in a team that would go for a championship and then in the next year, two years, be broken up," he said. "I've only known one NBA city, and I had no interest in having two or three more."

The Warriors have Nick Van Exel and Speedy Claxton on the roster, but Mullin has advocated depth ever taking over the club earlier this summer.

"Some might say you have three [point guards], but I've always looked at Nick as a combo guard, a scorer," Mullin said. "It's only crowded when everybody is healthy."

Still, Mullin wouldn't rule out trading Van Exel, who has one guaranteed year left on his contract at $12 million. Without a deal, the Warriors will have $20 million worth of point guards next season.

After eight seasons with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, Fisher seems ready to put the Lakers behind him. He might have left Los Angeles even if owner Jerry Buss hadn't decided to make major changes and essentially rebuild around Bryant.

"In the NBA, there's so many things that get attention, you get away from the enjoyment of just playing basketball," Fisher said. "You can lose some of that after you've been successful. It's tough to regenerate that energy year after year when you've done it two or three times."

Fisher likes the Warriors' young core: shooting guards Jason Richardson and Mickael Pietrus, forwards Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, and rookie big man Andris Biedrins, who impressed the rest of the league with his performances at the Long Beach summer league.

The Warriors also re-signed center Adonal Foyle last week, handing out another big-money contract for a player who's never been a full-time starter during seven seasons with Golden State. Erick Dampier is expected to leave this week, and Mullin has spoken to several teams about a sign-and-trade deal, though nothing is imminent.

The Atlanta Hawks have interest in Dampier, and the team apparently is working on its strategy to sign the 6-foot-11 center who averaged 12.3 points and 12 rebounds last season.

Hawks vice president of communications Arthur Triche said general manager Billy Knight and coach Mike Woodson met with Dampier in Utah, where the Hawks' summer league team is playing this month.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press