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Ball Don't Lie

In a startling salary dump, the Lakers trade Derek Fisher to Houston

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Derek Fisher and coach Mike Brown (Getty Images)

In an astonishing turn of events, the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to trade Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets for forward Jordan Hill, likely ending the Laker career of a point guard who has started for three of the five Laker championship teams he's played on. In a day that saw the Lakers save a good chunk of money (both in terms of Luke Walton's 2012-13 contract, and the 2012 draft pick they don't have to pay, sending both to Cleveland) while improving their point guard situation, the Lakers made a callous, needless, money-saving deal just to rid itself of Fisher's $3.4 million contract for next season.

There is absolutely no justification for the move. Fisher, to be quite frank, has been absolutely brutal on both sides of the ball over the last two seasons for Los Angeles. He can't stay in front of even the NBA's slowest point guards, at this point, and he offers precious little offensively save for the occasional (as in, "32 percent of the time he shoots one") 3-point basket. By every conceivable standard, he was a millstone for the team on the court. No amount of leadership and smarts (two things Fisher provides in spades) could make up for his shortcomings.

It still doesn't mean you trade Derek Fisher, heart of the team, to save $3.4 million and a few million more in luxury tax savings. Some guys really should just be untouchable, even as their minutes decrease to nil. Derek Fisher should have been one of those guys.

Ramon Sessions, acquired earlier Thursday in a trade with Cleveland, is a good scoring point guard that was set to rightfully replace Fisher in the starting lineup, and he owns a $4.5 million player option for 2012-13 that he would likely pick up; unless some lights-out shooting and a long Laker playoff run tempted other teams into signing him for more money. In exchanging Walton's contract for Sessions, and declining to pay a first-round pick guaranteed money next season, the Lakers were able to lop a few million off their 2013 payroll and luxury tax ledger; but they were still due to pay what would likely be about $15 million or so in dollar-for-dollar luxury tax payments; depending on where the tax figure is placed next year.

Losing Fisher knocks $3.4 million off of those payments. And that's it. They're not under the cap, and they still have to pay a ton of luxury tax cash to non-tax paying teams. They just sold out everyone's favorite teammate for a flighty big forward who won't play much, and $3.4 million dollars.

And they gave the Rockets a first-round pick in the process. A solid one, too, if the Dallas Mavericks improve and post a record within the NBA's top 10 this year, which allows the conditions to be taken off and Houston to utilize the conditional selection in this year's deep draft.

That pick was handed to Los Angeles after they traded Lamar Odom to Dallas in the offseason in another cost-cutting move. Odom was upset at the time that he had been dangled in trade talks with New Orleans, but by now (over four months later) time spent as a Laker would likely have put LO in a better frame of mind than the one he's showcasing in Dallas. The deal was a lose-lose for both sides, because the Lakers badly need Odom's all-around gifts, and the first sign that Lakers owner Jerry Buss is valuing saving money over all else in spite of his team's championship potential.

On paper -- basketball-themed "paper," and not payroll paper -- losing Fisher does absolutely nothing to hurt those chances. As coldly stated above, the Lakers weren't benefitting from Fisher's presence on the court, and they've been chasing after preferable point guard solutions via trade all year. But no amount of cold descriptions of Fisher's on-court weaknesses compare to dealing him away for nothing, denying Kobe Bryant the ability to bounce mindful basketball ideas off the player he entered the NBA with back in 1996, and potentially alienating an entire locker room and fan base along the way.

To put it like a Malibu surfer, this is pretty messed up. And no, the Rockets cannot buy Fisher out in order for Derek to rejoin the Lakers this year. After a cruel dismissal like this, bent on saving money for a team that just signed a billion-dollar television deal, we can't understand why he'd want to.

You've really made a hash of it, Buss family.

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