I had a really interesting talk with Derek Fisher earlier in the week, talking about the 2004 Lakers team and some of the things he learned from the experiences that crazy bunch had….
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Or, for a quick preview, here’s a short excerpt:
Like the championship teams of the early part of this decade, Fisher said he thinks the current team is constructed to have an opportunity to win this year, next year and even a few years after that.
But having gone through the abrupt rise and fall of the previous dynasty, he’s not taking anything for granted.
How quickly can things change for these Lakers in the off-season?
Kobe Bryant can opt out after this season, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown are unrestricted free agents and Jackson has gone back and forth on retirement all season.
Which, when put onto paper like that, sounds eerily similar to the 2004 off-season, which Jackson later called “The Last Season” in his book.
“Oh yeah, it was gone (quickly),” Fisher said of the 2004 team which was dismantled after losing to the Pistons in the NBA Finals.
“The team was deconstructed, the coach was gone, that’s just this business. That’s pro sports.”
It happened so quickly, Fisher didn’t even see it coming.
“I think we all understood there would be some adjustments and some changes because we had so many guys that were potential free agents, but the idea of the whole cover being ripped apart, where it’d be a whole new organization and team, we had no idea.”
What resonates strongly with Fisher, in hindsight, is the common purpose that team had, as veterans including Karl Malone and Gary Payton played through injuries and struggles in relentless pursuit of a championship they never had tasted.
“I think I relate to them better now,” Fisher said. “I had an appreciation for where they were then. I didn’t see myself as this young guy who had 15 years ahead of me. That was 2004, I was 29 myself. So I had an appreciation for what they were after.
“That’s what made that team special, even with all the personalities and injuries and things we had to go through, because of that common purpose, because Gary and Karl were here for that one reason.
“Our team had won three and then we lost the year before, so all we wanted was to win that championship in ’04. But the injuries just tore us apart. Karl’s (knee) injury, but really Horace Grant’s hip injury. We didn’t have a power forward at all, and if you try to match up against a team like Detroit with no power forward, it’s really tough.
“I had an appreciation for them then, but I think I relate to them more now. I don’t see this as my last stand, but obviously I’m much closer to the end of my career than the beginning, so I would never want an opportunity like last year’s or this year’s to just kind of slip by as if, “Oh well, five years from now I’ll get that back.”‘