Finale something new for these Lakers
LOS ANGELES — In the moment when winners jump around and celebrate a championship, Derek Fisher stopped himself on that night in 2000.
“The first one, it was so new, so my emotions were running all over the place,’’ Fisher said. “I remember almost feeling as though I didn’t want to quite celebrate in front of the Pacers’ faces so I went to shake hands with a couple of those guys first and then joined in on the celebration.
“I think there’s so much unknown when you haven’t won before that comes over you,’’ Fisher added “I guess kind of similar to the public, your mind kind of goes to let’s do this again.’’
Fisher, Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson have won four NBA championships together with the Lakers. Yet tonight they will step into uncharted territory, playing a Game 7 in the NBA Finals for the first time in their careers. This is just the 17th time in NBA history that the finals have stretched to seven games, and in 13 of those, the home team won the championship.
Except for three seasons (2005-2007), Fisher and Bryant have played their careers together in purple and gold. They both entered the NBA in 1996. But even Fisher is amazed this is their first Game 7 in the Finals.
“I guess it’s interesting to think about that it hasn’t happened but then to think about the dominance with which [Jackson’s] teams have put forth in the Finals, then that becomes really interesting to talk about to get to a situation where you’re playing against the best team from the other conference, and in four, five or six games it’s done,’’ Fisher said.
When Jackson was asked about his preparation for a Game 7, he reflected on his time as a player facing a Game 7 with the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1973. The opponent? The Celtics.
“. . . We had tape developed overnight, or film I should say, regular film,’’ Jackson said. “And Jo Jo White was punishing us with high screen rolls, and we had a moment in the film study that we were doing back in those days, the same old thing was happening. Dean Meminger saying, ‘I don’t get any help,’ and Red Holzman barked at him, ‘The job has got to get done.’ One way or the other the job has to get done. As you know, Dean Meminger had the game of his life in the seventh game. So yeah, it’s not any different. The job has to get done.’’
Bryant is averaging 29.5 points a game, 6.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 steals while playing an average of 40.7 minutes in this series. Having Bryant could be seen as an advantage, but he can’t be the only performer.
“Whenever you have a player that is capable of being as dominant individually as he can be I don’t think there is any question that he gives you as a teammate more confidence than maybe what you already have in yourself and your team,’’ Fisher said. “In terms of playing with a guy like that it’s important to realize you can’t show up [tonight] expecting to just kind of bring your jersey and go hand it to him and say, ‘All right you wear mine, too.’ Everybody has to come and pull their weight and not be a spectator.’’
Bryant admitted he dreamed about playing this type of game as a kid. He said he can draw on his experience in the 2008 Olympics, when the US team won the gold.
“They’re similar, because you’re talking about one game,’’ Bryant said. “I think this is a little different because I have way more responsibilities with this team than I did on the USA team. But energy around it is similar.’’
Bryant and Fisher may each have four NBA titles but that doesn’t take away from their goal of winning one more.
“I mean, I’ve said the whole season, you don’t win a championship, it’s a failure,’’ Bryant said. “It’s as simple as that.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.