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Really? Derek Fisher's the Best Available Villain?

May 9, 2010 – 2:33 PM
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Bethlehem Shoals

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If you enjoy any of the following things: Being reminded that Utah Jazz fans are intense; reading Bill Plaschke; or hearing once again the strange, twisted, and thoroughly moving saga of how Derek Fisher ended up back with the Lakers, click here. Otherwise, gather up your mental baggage, and come along with me.

The gist of Plascke's piece is that, when it comes to booing and generally piling vitriol on visiting Lakers teams, Utah hits no one harder than Fisher. It's a little murky exactly what the sin was -- the late Larry Miller, no dummy he, gave Fisher his blessings to walk in 2007. It was, after all, a way to get out from under a contract with an aging guard. And while Fisher's infant daughter was at a New York hospital that fateful summer, and Utah has a wonderful medical center, you can't really question what he thought was best for his kid. Plus, Fisher had lived in Los Angeles a long time and had a support system there.

But according to Plaschke -- who admittedly, could be exaggerating for effect -- Fisher is the most hated Laker in the Energy Solutions battle dome. The crowd may have been holding up images of Kobe Bryant's bizarre all-white photo shoot for LA Times Magazine. Fisher, though, received the heartiest boos. Bryant is unmanned; Fisher, evil incarnate.

To me, that's the hilarious part. I happen to like the Lakers, and yet even I see the potential for demonizing this team. Kobe Bryant is, well, Kobe Bryant; no matter all the improvements he has made to his private and personal self over the years, he's still eyed with suspicion. Phil Jackson himself likened Bryant's photo shoot to the nefarious Judge Doom, arch-fiend of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Not to sound like a broken record, but Ron Artest is, well, Ron Artest. Lamar Odom is married to a reality television star from a notoriously silly famous-for-being-famous family. Pau Gasol is soft and foreign. Andrew Bynum is huge without projecting menace, which even makes Lakers fans angry.

And that's just the core that will likely propel this team to a championship. The bench, or what little of it actually matters anymore, could be the opposite of fan favorites. Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic is all but irrelevant. Still, he's got that headband and that nickname. Luke Walton is a soap opera star whose career might be all nepotism. Shannon Brown has let that dunking notoriety go to his head, even though he squandered the hype with his lackluster All-Star Weekend showing. It's tough to even write about Adam Morrison without getting savage.

Somehow, though, Fisher makes the most appealing target. I guess there's the Judas factor; Fisher duped a sick old man, like how Jazz star Carlos Boozer did blind Cavs owner Gordon Gund. Maybe, to these boo-birds, it's like a feud within a family. Except Fisher was allowed to walk for reasons of actual kin, reasons that -- unless one insists on second-guessing his treatment decisions -- always trump team allegiance and other workplace matters. Sorry, Utah fans, but taking this one personally makes you look like a spurned hooker.

Derek Fisher may have never presented a dossier explaining exactly why Los Angeles was his necessary destination. But did he owe that to the fans? Or should they have respected the difference between fans and family? So he ended up on the Lakers and won a few rings -- would the Jazz even want him on the books anymore? It turned out well for Fisher basketball-wise, and it's hard not to appreciate the irony when he's helping putting away the Jazz in the playoffs, rather than run out from the tunnel to make postseason moments for them. Irony, though, can be sterile. Stuff happens, and the cosmos chuckles. It doesn't always mean there's a betrayal, reversal, or grudge that's justified by it.

Back to reality, or at least the reality we called sports: Fans aren't rational, awful things get said in the name of expressing our fondness for our team, and those we are close to are also the ones who hurt us the most. That's a Mother's Day message as well as a truism about players switching teams. But -- strictly speaking Jazz-Lakers -- there's much better material to work with on the Lakers. Material that won't make anyone question your sanity or humanity. As targets go, Fisher is a waste of that negative energy.
Filed under: Sports