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Fisher has options but will take time deciding

Published: Friday, Aug. 28 2015 9:52 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz Derek Fisher (right) laughs with Jazz owner Larry Miller during a press conference to announce that he has been released from his contract. Fisher is looking at his options. (Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News) Utah Jazz Derek Fisher (right) laughs with Jazz owner Larry Miller during a press conference to announce that he has been released from his contract. Fisher is looking at his options. (Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News)
Even after walking away from the final three years and $20.58 million on his contract with the Jazz, Derek Fisher should have multiple options in the NBA's summer free-agency market.
When the veteran guard announced Monday that the Jazz were letting him out of his deal so he could seek the best-possible medical care for his daughter Tatum, who is battling a rare form of childhood eye cancer called retinoblastoma, Fisher suggested he didn't know if franchises located in a limited list of cities where that's possible would even have interest in him.
"That's the hope," Fisher said at the time, "but every team doesn't need my services, to be honest.
"I'll be 33 (years old) in August, I'm 6-(foot)-1, I averaged 10 points this year ... I don't know how many other people feel that strongly about what I do."
Fisher, however, may be selling himself short.
Fewer than 24 hours after he spoke, Los Angeles Lakers Mitch Kupchak publicly discussed Fisher's plight — and multiple media reports from the L.A. area dissected the likelihood of Fisher rejoining the Lakers, for whom he played during the first eight seasons of his 11-year NBA career.
Since then, several other possibilities have surfaced — aided in large part by the fact the NBA allowed the Jazz to facilitate Fisher making his plans public on the second full day of summer free-agency, rather than waiting until many teams had already made critical personnel decisions.
Before deciding where he'll play, though, agent Mark Bartelstein said Fisher will continue to focus foremost on determining precisely where Tatum can receive the best care.
"People are making it seem like this is about money," Bartelstein said Thursday, "but just the exact opposite is true.
"We haven't talked about money with anybody," the Chicago-based agent added. "I was asked by a reporter in Los Angeles what I thought Derek was worth, and my answer was 'worth a lot more than the midlevel,' because he just walked away from that. But we haven't asked for anything from anybody. His interest right now is finding the right place for his daughter, and then we'll go from there."
Fisher, who would have made $6.37 million next season, could perhaps find a team willing to pay midlevel-exception money, which is a multiyear contract beginning at about $5.8 million in 2007-08.
That would allow him to recoup much of the $20.58 million from which he's walked away.
But because of his age and complicated NBA collective bargaining rules, he essentially would be able to sign only a four-year deal and a not a full five-year midlevel contract — meaning it's unlikely he'll come out much, if any, ahead.
The key to finding something that will make it all work is identifying not only a team willing to offer a contract but also one located in one of just six or seven cities — Salt Lake City not among the them.
According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, unidentified sources have "said Fisher, among other teams, would consider the (Cleveland Cavaliers) because of the highly regarded Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center."
The Memphis Grizzlies are "interested" and "will explore the possibility of adding" Fisher, a native of nearby Little Rock, Ark., The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal reported. At the renowned St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, a posting on the facility's Web site says scientists and physicians there "work in tandem to translate laboratory discoveries into cures for retinoblastoma."
"I also hear that Miami is a possible destination for Derek Fisher, though he'll most likely be a Laker next year," blogged Ivan Carter, the Washington Post's Washington Wizards beat writer.
It appears Fisher ideally would want to live and work in New York, where since May his twin daughter has received cutting-edge treatment through The Retinoblastoma Program of the Ophthalmic Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
Earlier this week there, Tatum underwent what Bartelstein said the Fisher family hopes to be the final chemotherapy treatment she will need.
"It went well," the agent said.
Meanwhile, the Newark Star-Ledger reported Bartelstein spoke this week with Knicks assistant general manager Glen Grunwald. "Obviously, Derek would have a lot of interest in New York," Bartelstein told the newspaper. The Star-Ledger, though, called the possibility of Fisher actually signing with New York "probably a bit remote," since the Knicks "have 17 players on the roster and are stocked at guard."
The most-realistic possibility may be Los Angeles, where the Lakers are seeking veteran help to run the triangle offense with which Fisher is so familiar — and where Fisher started his NBA career in 1996, the same year as Lakers star and close Fisher-friend Kobe Bryant.
Researchers at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, the facility's Web site says, have "developed an innovative laser/chemotherapy treatment for retinoblastoma."
"Me and Mitch (Kupchak) spoke and had very good conversation about the Lakers and Derek's interest," Bartelstein told Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise earlier this week.
"The Lakers are obviously close to his heart," the agent also told the Los Angeles Times.
As for the Jazz, they have no problem with Fisher shopping his services — and seem confident he can find a match that suits the family's needs.
"We'd sign him again," Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor said.
"I hope he plays again," O'Connor added. "We want that."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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