Fisher hopes return to L.A. will soften Bryant's trade demands

Updated: July 20, 2007, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Derek Fisher hopes his return to the Los Angeles Lakers might make Kobe Bryant rethink his demand to be traded.

"I hope that me returning and adding some familiarity to the situation in terms of the triangle offense, and just a feeling of camaraderie and family that we established here years ago, that it would help in his decision," Fisher said Friday at the team's training facility.

Fisher, who played for Arkansas-Little Rock, came into the NBA with the Lakers in 1996, the same year as Bryant, and the two played together eight years, winning three NBA championships.

Asked if his presence will persuade Bryant to stay, Fisher said, "I can't answer accurately, but I'd like to think so and I hope so."

"I don't come in here feeling like I'm the answer to anything," he added. "But I hope to be able to finish up playing alongside him."

Fisher said the two were friends while he was with the Lakers and have grown even closer since he left Los Angeles after the 2003-04 season, keeping in touch by phone and talking about their families. They have not discussed Bryant's comments about wanting to leave the Lakers, Fisher said.

"I've made a concerted effort not to question or even mention anything about what he's said, comments that he's made," Fisher said. "It's just not the relationship that we've had since I left here."

Fisher asked the Utah Jazz to release him from his contract so he could concentrate on finding the best medical care for his 1-year-old daughter, Tatum, who has cancer in her left eye.

Utah honored his request, and Fisher expressed his gratitude to the Jazz and the NBA for allowing him to make the move.

He said he and his wife, Candace, already have lined up a team of specialists for their daughter in Los Angeles.

"We're looking forward to Tatum living a very full and strong and vibrant life for years to come, and we feel that this decision will help her do that as best as possible," Fisher said.

Fisher, who turns 33 on Aug. 9, said he and his wife have received an amazing amount of support during the ordeal with their daughter.

"Seeing what she [Tatum] has been through and the fact that she wakes up every day and is ready to have fun and be a 1-year-old, that's inspiring to us as husband and wife and as parents," he said.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak presented Fisher with a new jersey with his old No. 2 on it.

"We felt we needed a veteran ball-handling guard that had a presence on and off the court, in the locker room and that would be very productive on the court as well," Kupchak said.

The Lakers did not try to re-sign guard Smush Parker after the season.

Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer the past two years, complained at the end of the season about a lack of talent around him and said May 30 he wanted to be traded. He added that nothing could change his mind.

Still, the Lakers have made it clear they don't plan to trade him. Bryant is owed $88.6 million over the next four seasons, but could terminate his contract in two years.

The Lakers haven't won a playoff series since reaching the NBA finals in 2004 for the fourth time in five years. With Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal leading the way, they won three consecutive championships from 2000-02.

O'Neal was traded to Miami in July 2004. A day later, Bryant signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract to remain with the Lakers.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Fisher signed a reported 3-year deal for about $14 million to return to the Lakers.

He averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 assists for the Jazz last season. He has career averages of 8.7 points and 3.3 assists.

He earned a spot in the Lakers' all-time highlight reel with his improbable buzzer-beater to win Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press