NBA Finals: Derek Fisher comes up big yet again

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Is if keeps on happening, can it really be a cliche? Derek Fisher was perhaps the worst starting point guard in basketball over the course of the regular season. He did not have a great finals, statistically speaking. He was whisper-quiet for most of game seven. And who made the biggest play of Thursday night’s game seven? 
Derek Fisher, of course. During game four of last year’s Finals, Derek Fisher hit the game-tying three that broke the Magic’s spirits in the waning moments of the game, ultimately leading to the Lakers taking a 3-1 series lead and the championship a game later. 
On Thursday night, Fisher did himself one better. With the Lakers trailing by three points with six and a half minutes remaining in the game, Derek Fisher got the ball at the three-point line when Pau Gasol passed it to him out of a double-team. Rajon Rondo closed out hard, but too much time had passed already. Fisher set up, cocked the ball to his left ear, and let a rainbow shot fly over Rondo’s outstretched hand. 
The ball nearly scraped the ceiling; while it hang in the air, everybody had enough time to realize exactly what was going to happen when the ball down. Swish. Tied NBA Finals. New record for most career 3s in the Finals. The Lakers didn’t fall behind for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. Just one more big shot and one more championship for a player who’s become synonymous with both. 
Five seasons ago, Derek Fisher was the backup point guard for a struggling Golden State Warrior team. In fact, he wasn’t even a good backup point guard for a struggling Golden State team. Now he’s the starting point guard on a team that has been to three straight finals and won the last two. In fact, he’s the only Laker to have started every game for the past three seasons. The funny thing is, he’s not any better than he was on the Warriors. He’s still ludicrously slow. His release is still long, and he has a tough time getting any shot off that isn’t a wide-open catch-and-shoot opportunity. He’s not the best ballhandler or playmaker. He has trouble finishing, and doesn’t go to his right very well. 
All Derek Fisher does is play physical defense, come to play every night, make open threes, and never back down from a big shot. That’s all Phil Jackson has ever asked of Fisher, and that’s all Fisher has ever tried to do for Jackson. And all Phil and Fish have done together is win five championships. 
So where does Derek Fisher go from here? He was already never going to have to buy his own drinks in Los Angeles again. (Now somebody might just give him a bar.) He couldn’t really handle the grind of starting 82 games very well this season, and he won’t get any younger this off-season. Jordan Farmar isn’t a world-beater and is more of a traditional point, but he’s a big guard, and can knock down threes well enough to make use of himself in the triangle. He’s just been kept on an (understandably) short leash, and is still prone to mistakes on both ends of the floor because he doesn’t yet believe in himself. With some trust and tutelage, Farmar could absolutely become a worthy successor to Fisher.
Fisher is already the president of the player’s association; if he wants, some team will almost certainly have him as an assistant coach when he retires. Between now and then, Fisher will start to take on more and more of a player-coach role, increasing the time he spends mentoring the younger Lakers as his minutes start to dwindle more and more with the passing of each year.
After this game, a question presents itself: why doesn’t Fisher just retire now? Why not leave after yet another perfect moment, when the adoration for him is absolutely universal? Why subject himself to another 82 games of trying to chase around the fastest players in the league and all the criticism that comes with being the 36-year old point guard of the league’s highest-profile franchise? Why not go out after a blaze of glory rather than allow himself to fade away?
As much sense as that would seem to make, it looks like Fisher is going to stick around for at least one more year. Maybe he doesn’t want to leave Phil and his fellow Laker veterans. Maybe he loves living the life of a professional athlete. Maybe he wants to prove to himself and everyone else that he can still hang with the young guns. Maybe it has something to do with being the head of the player’s association. Maybe he knows that when he retires, his career will be remembered in the best way possible: a player whose failures nobody remembers and whose successes are etched into stone. 
Or maybe he’s just afraid that he’ll retire with one more perfect moment still left in him, and he’ll be sitting at home when the Lakers end up needing it. Phil Jackson and Laker fans everywhere sure are. 

Report: Draymond Green-Kevin Durant spat ‘one of the most intense of this Warriors era’

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Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into a confrontation with each other during a game two years ago. They quickly downplayed the argument and since won two titles together with the Warriors. The incident was largely forgotten.

Green and Durant quarreled on the bench again last night. This time, the surrounding rhetoric is trending the other way.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

An angry late game exchange between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green carried into the Golden State Warriors locker room on Monday night in Los Angeles, where some teammates loudly confronted Green for his decision-making on the final play of regulation, league sources told ESPN.

After the 121-116 overtime loss to the LA Clippers, some witnesses described the closed-door exchange as one of the most intense of this Warriors era. No one had to be separated, no player left his side and no hint of physicality loomed in the setting, sources said.

If harsh words over late-game strategy has been most intense exchange of the last three seasons, the Warriors are incredibly spoiled. Related: The Warriors are incredibly spoiled.

Teams would kill to suffer only this level of drama. Bickering over a November loss is nearly nothing. Green wanted to push the ball. Durant wanted to control it himself. It’s not necessarily a deep issue.

That said, because the Warriors have faced minimal challenge since signing Durant, this can feel more significant to them. They might overreact and let this linger in ways teams with more serious problems might not. So, this can spiral into something bigger.

Big enough to affect Durant’s upcoming free agency? He has the power to leave, and playing with the temperamental Green can be draining.

It can also be rewarding. Green’s attitude helps make him one of the NBA’s top defenders, and he’s a superb playmaker – a reason keeping the ball in his hands, despite the failed result this time, made sense. If Durant leaves Golden State, he might not find a teammate as good as Green (let alone Stephen Curry).

This episode will be one of the many things for Durant to consider next summer.

DeMar DeRozan learned he had been traded in parking lot of Jack-in-the-Box

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As if eating Jack-in-the-Box in your car at midnight was not depressing enough already…

That’s when and where DeMar DeRozan learned he had been traded from Toronto — the city and franchise he was all in on — to the San Antonio Spurs. The trade sent DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

DeRozan opened up to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report about how he learned about the decision that rocked him to his core.

DeRozan found out about the trade after getting out of a screening of The Equalizer 2, featuring Denzel Washington. Upon leaving the movie theater in Los Angeles late into the night, he checked his phone. “[I] was wondering why I was getting missed calls,” he says.

He was hungry, so he went to get something to eat at a Jack in the Box. In the parking lot, he got the call telling him he had just been traded to San Antonio. “It just caught me off guard,” he says. “I sat in the Jack in the Box parking lot for, like, two hours just trying to process it all, like just trying to process the whole thing, and it just tripped me out honestly, just trying to figure it out, but that’s how I found out. Midnight, sitting in the Jack in the Box parking lot for about two hours till I went home.”

It’s a trade that Toronto felt it had to make, in the same way it felt it had to move on from Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. The Raptors were enjoying their best run of basketball success in franchise history, having won 59 games the season before, but come the playoffs their system and personnel were just a little too predictable, and they could not reach the next level. Plus LeBron James was in the way.

Except now LeBron wasn’t in the way, and the Raptors decided to swing for the fences. Early on Toronto looks very good this season, but the real test of Leonard and the new-look Raptors starts in April. We’ve seen the good regular season Raptors before.

DeRozan is averaging 25.2 points per game this season and has been more efficient as a shooter because the Spurs have asked him to play to his strengths — the midrange jumper. DeRozan is taking fewer threes in a league that has gone three crazy. The Spurs are 9.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, with most of that help on the offensive end. More than that, DeRozan has found a new home, a new comfort level.

But there are still a few scars from how all of it went down.

Nets: Caris LeVert dislocated foot, will return this season

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Caris LeVert‘s injury last night looked so severe, his Nets teammates cried and the Timberwolves prayed.

Thankfully, that all turned out to be an overreaction. (Or, if you believe, the compassion and prayer worked.)

Nets release:

Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert returned to New York with the team last night and was evaluated today by Nets’ Team Orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Following the evaluation, LeVert was diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot.

“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” said Dr. O’Malley. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”

This is fantastic news. LeVert is one of the NBA’s up-and-comers and well-liked by nearly everyone who knows him. People all around the league wished him well in the wake of this injury.

It’s still unclear how much time LeVert will miss. A dislocated foot is a small matter only relative to the feared severity of LeVert’s injury. This will probably derail his Most Improved Player campaign.

But LeVert returning to the court this season will be a joyous occasion on its own.

PBT Podcast: Lakers’ talk with Eric Pincus (plus Butler, Carmelo news)

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Jimmy Butler is in Philadelphia.

Carmelo Anthony is in Houston, but not for much longer.

And the Lakers have Tyson Chandler and a three-game winning streak — there is never a dull moment in the NBA. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports welcomes in Eric Pincus, who covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report plus is a salary cap expert you have seen on NBA TV, to talk about it all. The pair talk about what the Sixers need to do next to capitalize on their window with Butler, are there landing spots for Carmelo Anthony, and then a deep dive on the Lakers: What is the team doing right? Does Lonzo Ball fit with LeBron James? What about Brandon Ingram? And who is the next big star the Lakers will be able to add to their mix?

We want your questions for the podcast, and your comments, email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com. As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.