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Fish means more to L.A. than stats

Mark Heisler Los Angeles Times

DENVER – La Vida Fisher.

Knowing how loco this subculture is, as Derek Fisher does, it’s still a mind-bender to find yourself written off one moment, and a hero the next … for saying a few words to your teammates before the fourth quarter of Game 3, when they turned the Western Conference finals around.

You’ve heard of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans?

Meet Fish and his 11 Lakers.

Fisher’s plea, before they came from eight points down against the Denver Nuggets to win Game 3, is now known as his “This is what it’s about” speech, and ranks with, “If your arrows blot out the sun, we will fight in the shade!”

Not that Fisher expected it, after saying what he said spontaneously, because it’s what he does.

Imagine his surprise when teammates called it a rallying cry, and people began asking what his motivation was, if he writes his own stuff, and what makes him so inspirational, even if he hasn’t hit the broad side of a barn in a while.

“If I knew what it was,” said Fisher, laughing, “I’d put it on QVC for like $29.99.”

Of course, speeches deemed inspirational after the latest victory are often forgotten after the next loss.

Lore is fun, but in real life it’s not unusual for a baseball player to visit a hospital, where a child asks him to hit a home run, so after the ball leaves the yard, Babe Ruth et al say they promised they’d try to hit one.

(This also applies to hitters vowing to take a pitcher downtown, which they only do after every at-bat.)

When Fisher made his speech, there were fans there with banners that read, “Keep Fighting,” Chauncey Billups’ rallying cry in Game 2.

The Nuggets kept fighting in Game 3 but missed 11 of 14 shots in the fourth quarter, which will do it every time.

If this story means anything, it’s a reminder of how much more Fisher means to the Lakers than his numbers – which is fortunate, considering his numbers.

With Fisher struggling since the second round when he took the heat for Aaron Brooks’ spectacular series, amid conjecture he was through, there was still a reason to start him ahead of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, even as coach Phil Jackson was asked, delicately, if “loyalty” played a part in his decisions last week.

Knowing what that meant – “Why is Fish still starting?” – Jackson declined to answer.

Asked what led him to that moment in Game 3, Fisher answered, “My career.”

What Fisher did Saturday wasn’t anything he hasn’t done his whole career, because it’s who he is.

“It just jumped out, man,” Fisher said. “I don’t know, it just kind of came to me. I felt compelled to say it, as opposed to thinking it and not saying it.

“We still probably would have won the game. Things would have still happened the way they did, but I just felt they needed to hear it and I wanted to say it.“

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