Fisher leaves Jazz to focus on daughter's cancer treatment

Updated: July 3, 2007, 1:23 PM ET
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz agreed to release guard Derek Fisher from his contract Monday so he can concentrate on finding the best care for his 11-month-old daughter, who has cancer in her left eye.

Derek Fisher

Fisher

Fisher said he wants to live in one of the six or seven cities being considered for Tatum's care.

He didn't rule out playing for another NBA team but emphasized that his daughter's health is his No. 1 priority.

"Life for me outweighs the game of basketball," Fisher told reporters after flying from New York to meet with Jazz owner Larry H. Miller and other team executives.

"When it comes to decisions related to them," he said of his family, "I do what's best."

Life for me outweighs the game of basketball.

Derek Fisher

The Jazz acquired Fisher a year ago in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. During eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was part of three NBA championships -- experience that Utah's young team craved.

In May, his daughter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor in her left eye. The danger is that it could spread to her brain or the rest of her body.

Fisher at times fought exhaustion trying to balance basketball and his daughter's welfare. He spent a day at a New York hospital in May, then flew to Utah for a Western Conference semifinal game against Golden State.

Only 350 cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed each year in North America, according to Dr. A. Linn Murphree, director of the retinoblastoma program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, who is not involved in the Fisher case.

In most cases, patients lose the eye rather than undergo chemotherapy, but there are exceptions.

After the news conference, Fisher and wife Candace were flying to New York for another medical appointment Tuesday.

"Outwardly she's doing great. Her spirits are good," Fisher said of Tatum.

He said his desire to leave Utah does not mean that medical care here is weak. Rather, Fisher said he and his wife need a place that has the "right combination" of specialists.

He declined to identify the cities under consideration. Many NBA players work apart from their families, but it's not an option for him. He and Candace have four children.

"For me and my family, we just don't believe in it. ... I don't think I could be the player I could be if I had to carry that load," Fisher said.

Wiping away tears, Miller said Fisher "leaves a legacy" of leadership and toughness for Utah's young players.

"He's focused on the most important thing," the owner said of Fisher's request to leave the Jazz.

Fisher doesn't want to retire but acknowledged it's a possibility.

"I'll be 33 in August. I'm 6-1. I averaged 10 points this year," he said. "I don't know how many people feel strongly about what I do."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press