The Los Angeles Lakers upgraded the point guard position at the trade deadline by dealing Luke Walton and a draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ramon Sessions.
However, the Lakers may have seriously harmed their chances of reaching the NBA Finals by trading long-time point guard Derek Fisher for Jordan Hill.
Fisher has found his way onto the Oklahoma City Thunder, and with the Lakers missing their hard-nosed guard, and the Thunder picking him up, the Lakers may have just cost themselves a chance at the title.
The Thunder are currently in first place in the Western Conference, and many predicted that the young nucleus of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would mean that Scott Brooks's squad would get over the hump and make the Finals this season. Things were looking up for Oklahoma City, after a quality effort against the eventual NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.
It was the aging Lakers, who got swept by Dallas, that had serious questions heading into the 2011-2012 season. In the end, the Lakers moved Lamar Odom, Walton, and Fisher and were extremely close to dealing Pau Gasol. All four of those players are in their 30s, and all of those players have spent a considerable amount of time with Kobe Bryant.
Neither those deals, nor the hiring of new head coach Mike Brown, received a seal of approval from Bryant, as the future Hall of Famer wasn't even asked his opinion on such matters. In the case of Fisher, Bryant had a unique bond, as the two joined the Lakers in 1996 when they were selected just 11 picks apart in the NBA Draft.
Fisher's loss hurts the Lakers in a lot of ways. He is a savvy veteran, he played tough defense against players who were often taller than him like Boston's Ray Allen, he remains among the best players in the NBA in taking a charge, he can still hit outside shots, and he has always been clutch.
Perhaps more importantly, he knows the Lakers inside and out. Should the Lakers face the Thunder in playoffs, Fisher will basically be another coach and will feed the staff and his teammates all the secrets of the team. The same can not be said about Hill's role with the Lakers, to say the least.
When Fisher steps out on the hardwood at Staples Center, he will feel extremely comfortable, and will be greeted to a chorus of cheers from a fanbase that has appreciated his dedication and quality play for several seasons.
Like another fan favorite, Robert Horry, Fisher still has something left. Fisher averages more than 25 minutes a game this season, and has shot a respectable percentage from beyond the three-point line (32.4).
When Horry left the Lakers, the consensus opinion was that the 6'10 forward had over-stayed his welcome and didn't have much left. However, Horry remained a key bench player for the San Antonio Spurs and his clutch shots helped lead the Spurs to two titles in five seasons.
The parallels between Horry and Fisher are not completely similar. Horry joined the Spurs when he was 34, while Fisher, who plays a more tiring position, is 37. Perimeter players like Fisher rarely last more than 15 seasons.
But Fisher is a passionate athlete, and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Fisher wants to win another ring, and having it come at the expense of the team that rather callously sent him packing after several loyal seasons would likely be gratifying for his ego.
The Lakers could have kept Fisher, and had him split time with Steve Blake as the reserve for Sessions. The Lakers also could have simply dealt Blake, who is having a better season than in 2010-2011, but doesn't have the same connection to the organization as Fisher has had.
Expect Fisher to make the most of his minutes with Oklahoma City, and for the Lakers to be left perhaps scratching their heads as to why they let him go.