The Los Angeles Lakers are quicker and younger at point guard with Ramon Sessions, but without Derek Fisher, can they still compete for a title?
It was not just another day in Laker history when Derek Fisher was traded, not for Kobe Bryant, and not for the fans. The sturdy, reliable team player that is D-Fish was the last remaining member of Bryant’s first championship team in 2000. When he reflects about his time with Fisher, Bryant’s memories sound a lot like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They spent summers together, playing against each other, sharpening their skills. In terms of maturity and perspective, Fisher was one of Bryant’s touchstones (the other may have been Phil Jackson). Even Bryant has admitted that Fisher will be missed:
Bryant and Fisher:
But, Kobe no longer has Shaquille O’Neal, Phil Jackson, or Derek Fisher. And he’s never won a title without at least two of them.
Remember the last time Bryant didn’t have Fisher? The Lakers missed the playoffs one of those years, even with Bryant at the top of his game.
The Lakers lost the experience of Fisher, Luke Walton, and Jason Kapono, while picking up youth, in two 25-year olds, point guard Ramon Sessions and power forward Jordan Hill, a #8 pick in the 2009 draft. As Shaq is famous for saying about Michael Jordan’s comeback with the Washington Wizards, “39 ain’t 29, bro.” Even though Fisher will be deeply missed, the Lakers upgraded at point guard, going from 37 to 25 years old. That’s a big difference that can already be seen when Sessions is in the game for the Lakers.
With these moves, the Lakers have hopefully plugged the whole in the bench left by the loss of Lamar Odom. And, they have upgraded with a quick, highly skilled point guard who is good in transition. Like Bryant said, “we believe Sessions has that DNA,” that ability to learn how to win championships.
It’s a gamble, but all sports are. The Lakers have lost the only link, besides their leader Kobe, to the first championship three-peat, in losing Fisher. But, the Lakers have upgraded with youth in positions the Lakers needed. Just like Bryant, fans, and the critics wanted, the Lakers upgraded. It wasn’t a 2004-like re-load, a team that featured Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Derek Fisher. But, the Lakers are making a calculated gamble on youth.
The only question will be how the Lakers’ chemistry develops, and if Hill and Sessions will develop that championship grit. The Lakers’ new acquisitions look good, but their record is not anything special since the trades, and they just lost only their second home game since Christmas.
Rob S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition living in Los Angeles. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. De France has played, coached, and officiated competitive high school basketball in California for many years. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.